West Indies Survive Morgan Magic
West Indies 179-5 (Charles 84) beat
England 164-4 (Morgan 71no) by 15 runs
ICC World T20, Group 1 Match, Pallekele
Report by Daniel Grummitt
A magical innings from Eoin Morgan wasn't enough for England as they lost by 15 runs to the West Indies on the opening day of super eight matches in Pallekele. Morgan hit 71 not out off only 36 balls, but, coming in at number five, even he couldn't make up for the earlier failings of his colleagues.
West Indies' openers had earlier blitzed England's spinners to all parts to lead their side to 179 for five after captain Darren Sammy had won the toss and elected to bat. Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles both hit fast-paced half-centuries as seven overs of England spin yielded 70 runs and only one wicket.
Gayle began the onslaught against the pace of Jade Dernbach, hitting him for three fours in his opening over, as Charles took time to get going and struggled to rotate the strike. Nonetheless, they managed a solid 47 for none off the first six overs, with Gayle contributing 28 of them off only 18 balls.
The introduction of spin, though, seemed to suit the West Indies, in spite of the supposedly spin-friendly nature of the pitch. After watching Gayle smash three sixes off Samit Patel's opening over, Charles set to work on Graeme Swann's second. The third ball was a poor one outside leg-stump and was swept for four, but the fourth was crunched over long-on for six and the sixth flicked handsomely over mid-wicket with the same result.
Swann's third over to Gayle began a little better, but the third ball disappeared for six and Steven Finn shelled a straightforward catch off Charles off the fifth. However, just as Swann was beginning to boil over and the expletives were beginning to flow, Finn made amends and caught Gayle at long-on to end his destructive knock at 58 off 35 balls.
Strangely, that was to be the last we would see of Swann as England, through Patel, Finn and Stuart Broad, calmed the West Indies scoring rate down following the loss of their talisman. Marlon Samuels managed just two before plinking a catch to Morgan at point, while Kieron Pollard was caught off of Finn for just the single. Patel, after conceding 19 runs off his opening over, managed to keep the West Indies down to the same figure from his final three.
However, Charles was still there and enhancing his reputation by the minute. He hit Patel's final ball for six and the two balls following the dismissal of Pollard square either side of the wicket off Finn and to the boundary. He eventually reached 84, before, visibly tiring and dripping with sweat, lofting a Jade Dernbach low full toss into the hands of Jonny Bairstow running in from long-on.
Andre Russell (10 not out off five balls) and Dwayne Bravo (11 off eight) made hay in the last two overs of the West Indies innings as Stuart Broad and Jade Dernbach conceded 25 runs between them and they closed strongly on an above-par 179 for five.
The apparent usefulness of that total increased considerably after just three balls of the England reply. Craig Kieswetter wafted at and missed the first one, wafted at and plinked the second one to Kieron Pollard at point, while Luke Wright deflected the third politely into Chris Gayle's midriff at slip.
A Ravi Rampaul-inspired double-wicket maiden was not perhaps the start England had in mind in pursuit of their testing total and it was left to Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow to attempt a recovery. Hales looked the more comfortable of the two as Bairstow seemed preoccupied with trying to cut Samuel Badree's non-spinning leg-spin almost every ball. They brought up the England 50, but Bairstow's tortured little innings came to an end not long afterwards as he fell victim to a wonderful catch from Pollard at long-on when on 18.
It was then over to Morgan, who played one of those innings that, out of all of England's batsmen, only he can. With Hales playing a graceful counter-foil at the other end, Morgan struck the ball with the cleanness that Gayle had managed earlier. He raced to 50 off only 25 balls, sweeping to begin with before locating the straight boundary to bring the target down to 46 off 18 balls.
An excellent final over from Sunil Narine then took the equation to a less likely 39 off 12 balls, but Morgan, who, to be fair, had three of four pieces of good fortune with top edges falling safely, hit Rampaul's last over for 16, including two sixes, to leave England needing 23 off the final over.
The first ball of that final over, bowled by Marlon Samuels, went for four, but the next two yielded just a single and the fourth the wicket of Hales and that was that. West Indies had held their nerve and won by 15 runs.
Their fielding, especially that of Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard on the boundary had been top draw, while their spin pairing of Narine and Badree fared markedly better that England's, taking none for 53 from their eight overs, with valuable support from Samuels and Gayle.
Afterwards, England captain Stuart Broad reflected on his team's disastrous start as the reason for their defeat: "We had to regroup, obviously losing two wickets in that first over hurt us but we showed how good the wicket was," he said. "We were quite happy with our effort with the ball and I think we're disappointed not to win tonight. Eoin has been fantastic in this form of the game and he showed it again. The surface played pretty well, I think it was a batter's paradise. The bowlers kept them to a below par score so we're disappointed not to have chased that. We've got to stop losing early wickets because it's hurting us."
West Indies captain Darren Sammy, meanwhile was full of praise for his side, saying, "We backed ourselves to set a target and Chris and Charles got us going well. It's good to see the way Johnson Charles played, he stared off slow but he constructed an important innings. With Narine, Samuel, Chris, we decided to maximise out spinners against England and it worked out."
When we come to look back at this tournament in a couple of week's time, this may, just may, be the day that the West Indies emerged as genuine title contenders.
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