West Indies have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match T20 series against England after beating the tourists by five wickets in an entertaining encounter in Barbados.
The reigning World T20 champions dominated the game and withheld a late fight back from Ashley Giles’ men to take victory with seven balls remaining at the Kensington Oval.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, England slumped to 26-3 after five overs after captain on the day Morgan joined debutant Moeen Ali and opener Michael Lumb on returning to the bench after being dismissed by the West Indies.
The head coach made the two changes with Ali replacing Ben Stokes while spinner Stephen Parry came in for the injured Stuart Broad which meant Luke Wright moved down the order to accommodate the Worcestershire batsman.
It was Alex Hales and Jos Buttler that stabilised England’s innings and helped them reach a competitive total. Between the ninth and 13th over they smashed 59 runs before Hales was caught by Lendl Simmons off the bowling of Dwayne Bravo for 40 off 36 balls.
That left the tourists 102-4 in the 14th over and it wasn’t long until the heavens opened and the umpires called on the covers with Ravi Bopara at the crease with Buttler who was just one short of his half century. The wicketkeeper wasted no time when play resumed and he rocketed onto 67 when he was out for his highest international T20 score from just 43 balls.
Bopara, Wright and Tim Bresnan then scored 28 between them to help England to 152-7 off their full allocation of overs to at least make it a competitive total, despite the slow start.
With no Broad, it was left to Bresnan and Jade Dernbach to open the bowling and it wasn’t long before world superstar Chris Gayle smashed Dernbach literally out of the ground as the hosts started to make use of their powerplay, unlike England.
West Indies passed England’s 30 runs in the powerplay in half the balls with them racing to 34-0 after three overs. After changing ends, Dernbach did make a breakthrough with Bresnan catching Dwayne Smith for 30.
Morgan’s men then managed to slow down the progress of the hosts through the bowling of James Tredwell and Bopara who both bowled with control except from a sporadic outburst from Gayle who also hit the spinner out of the ground in swashbuckling fashion.
Bopara bowled Gayle for 36 which meant Simmons joined Marlon Samuels at the crease but they quietly went about their business in chasing the required 153 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three game series.
Wright was then brought on for a rare spell and he got the breakthrough with Simmons departing for 19 after Buttler took a magnificent catch standing up to the Sussex all-rounder who finished with one wicket off his two overs for 20.
Bopara then bowled out his full allocation of four overs and remarkably joined the history books by only going for 10 runs whilst picking up the single wicket to really give England a chance. The all-rounder now has the joint record for most economical four overs in international T20 cricket for England, matching Michael Yardy’s feat.
All of a sudden an England win was looking a real possibility after Bresnan took two wickets in as many balls, first Samuels and then Andre Russell were caught by Hales for 28 and two respectively.
Darren Sammy survived the hat-trick ball and before smashing two maximums and a four in the penultimate over which was bowled by Bresnan to take his side to victory by an impressive five wickets.
The final match at Bridgetown on Thursday is now a dead rubber but will still be used as crucial preparation for the World T20 in Bangladesh with England’s opening game against New Zealand on Saturday 22nd March.
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