Series level as West Indies keep the pressure on after near-miss in second game
Too close for comfort for England. Captain Eoin Morgan can view it how he likes – wanting to be pushed in matches, exposing a developing squad to pressure and a simple failure to execute, particularly at the death, if you’ll pardon the pun. Sunday night’s one-run thriller was all of those things. But the over-riding fact is that West Indies had no business even getting close after they needed 61 runs off the last three overs with just two wickets in hand. Had it not been for a ninth-wicket stand of 72 between Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein, who both finished unbeaten on 44, they wouldn’t have. And so, like England, West Indies have had plenty to chew over going into Wednesday’s third of five games with the series level at 1-1.
While England’s batting line-up showed vast improvement on their woeful 103 all out from the first match, no one breached fifty during their 171 for 8 in the second with Jason Roy’s 45 the top score. The fact West Indies could rely on a valiantly wagging tail was a plus for them, that they had to was not.
A fresh pitch offered less of the bounce that West Indies had exploited so well in the first match, where Jason Holder returned the remarkable figures of 4 for 7 from 3.4 overs. England, meanwhile, turned to a mix of experience and youth in Chris Jordan and Saqib Mahmood to bowl two of the last three overs on Sunday, and they conceded 23 and 28 runs respectively as both struggled to calibrate their yorkers.
The fielding could do with some work on both sides, with Liam Dawson and Morgan (twice) missing chances with varying degrees of difficulty in the covers, while Shepherd identified poor catching attempts as costly to their cause in his post-match dissection after Moeen Ali was twice reprieved in the deep during his 31 off 24 balls which, combined with his three wickets, led to Player of the Match honours.
West Indies LWLLL (most recent first) England WLLLW
In the spotlight
Moeen backed Saqib Mahmood to learn from a chastening night in which he went wicketless and conceded 45 off his four overs. It will be interesting to see how Mahmood responds and, indeed, how England respond at the selection table. There is a case to be made for sticking with him while those lessons are fresh and in light of Morgan’s desire to increase experience with a view to improving execution. With Tymal Mills fresh from a rest during the second match, Mahmood could be rotated out of the side but the effect of being rested, rotated or dropped on Mahmood’s confidence could well be the same and is worth considering.
Allrounder Odean Smith has played a minimal role in the series thus far amid a wealth of options in West Indies’ middle order and the success of others with the ball, including captain Kieron Pollard. Smith has bowled just one over, which went for four runs, and hit 7 off 3 balls from No. 8 on Sunday. But, speaking after their narrow defeat, Nicholas Pooran backed Smith as “power-hitter”. With their batting line-up largely untested in the first match, as the top three overhauled a paltry target for a nine-wicket victory, single-figure scores for four of the top six in the second match mean the spotlight could be thrown a little wider should it fall to Smith or his lower-order counterparts to lift them again.
West Indies’ ability to get so close with an unchanged side would indicate few, if any changes, all being well recovery-wise after two outings on the trot. With Shepherd and Hosein performing so admirably in the last game, it’s hard to see them being squeezed out.
West Indies (possible): 1 Shai Hope (wk), 2 Brandon King, 3 Nicholas Pooran, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 Jason Holder, 7 Fabian Allen, 8 Odean Smith, 9 Romario Shepherd, 10 Akeal Hosein, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
Illness forced Liam Livingstone to miss England’s first two matches, although he sat in the dugout for the Sunday’s fixture, suggesting that he’s up and about at least and perhaps in contention for the third game, where his big hitting can bolster a line-up bereft of multi-format players Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. His versatility with the ball would also be welcome for England and Livingstone’s inclusion could see Liam Dawson make way. Reece Topley did more than enough playing his first T20I since 2016 to hold his place with an excellent new-ball spell and tight bowling in the penultimate over of West Indies’ chase if rotation plans allow, so it may come down to a choice between Mahmood and Mills among the seamers.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Tom Banton, 3 James Vince, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Sam Billings (wk), 7 Chris Jordan, 8 Liam Livingstone / Liam Dawson, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Saqib Mahmood, 11 Reece Topley
Pitch and conditions
Kensington Oval remains limited to 50% capacity, due to Covid restrictions, but that has done little to dampen the party atmosphere in the stands. Mild temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius are forecast for the start of the match, as is a 40% chance of rain with cloud cover increasing through the evening. England’s preference for these fixtures has been to bat first to gain some experience of defending under the lights, particularly in the first match which was on a central strip. A fresh pitch is in prospect for the third game.
Stats and trivia
The 59 runs West Indies scored from the final three overs on Sunday were the joint-most conceded by England in that phase and the second-most by any team in T20Is
West Indies have only once chased down a target of 170-plus in T20Is since 2018.
“We are, we’re just getting it wrong.” England captain, Eoin Morgan, when asked why his side aren’t trying to bowl yorkers.
“It must be frightening for other teams to know that our No. 10 batter can do that.” Romario Sheperd on Akeal Hosein’s heroics.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo