England bounced back from their opening T20 International loss to level the Betway Series 1-1 tonight at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. But it was not nearly as comfortable as it could have been.
In the final over of the contest, West Indies plundered 28 runs with number 10 batsman Akeal Hosein contributing 26 of those with three 6s and two 4s. The problem was West Indies needed 27 to equal England’s tally of 171 for 8.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff and West Indies fans might wonder what could have been if umpire Joel Wilson had called Saqib Mahmood’s borderline second delivery of that over a wide.
Hosein’s look of disbelief told its own story, as his Trinidad and Tobago compatriot, Wilson, allowed Mahmood significant latitude. By such a slender margin was the battle lost today and the two teams will be on an equal footing when they meet again on Wednesday evening at the same venue.
Of course, what happens in the final over of the game is actually a culmination of what transpired in the 39 previous overs. And England captain Eoin Morgan would argue that he won more overs than he lost.
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard won the toss again and, once more, elected to field. On Saturday, England were 39 for 6 by the first ball of the 11th over. At drinks today, they were 64 for 2, with opener Jason Roy and number four Moeen Ali still at the crease.
And, boy, did Roy announce his presence too as, off the 11th over, he caned Fabian Allen for 24 runs. Roy and Ali put on 60 in partnership for the third wicket while Chris Jordan enjoyed another belligerent cameo, England bettering their Game One 103 by some distance.
West Indies then got off to a poor start as England left-arm pacer Reece Topley trapped opener Brandon King lbw off the second legal delivery of the innings. He then got rid of his opening partner, Shai Hope, with a superb run-out off his own bowling.
The Maroon Men were 6 for 2.
Nicholas Pooran and Darren Bravo put on 41 runs for the third wicket, although the former was dropped by Liam Dawson off Topley with the score on 18 and neither batsman was consistently middling the ball.
It became 47 for 3 when Pooran went for 24 off 22 balls and Bravo (23 off 20) and captain Kieron Pollard (1 off 4) soon followed, the third umpire overruling successive decisions by umpire Nigel Duguid.
Jason Holder and Odean Smith both fell cheaply to Ali in the 12th over, as West Indies slumped to 65 for 7. When Allen went for 12 off the first ball of the 16th over—with the score 98 for 8–the writing looked to be on the wall.
West Indies needed 73 runs from 29 balls at just under 15 an over. Hosein, the new batsman, had a T20I high score of 6* and a strike rate of 60.
The hosts got five runs off the remainder of Ali’s over and eight off the next one from Mahmood. But then Hosein hit the first delivery of the 18th over by Jordan for six and Shepherd chipped in with two more sixes, as they plundered 23 runs.
They needed 38 runs from 12 balls now. Could they…?
In the 19th over, Topley, playing his first T20I since the 2016 World Cup, strangled the West Indies batsmen, Shepherd only able to get a boundary off the last ball.
WI got only eight runs from that over. To win the match, they now needed 30 runs from six balls, 11 more than Carlos Brathwaite in that unforgettable 2016 final in Kolkata.
But Hosein rather than the more accomplished Shepherd was on strike. Not doable, right?
Mahmood’s first delivery was very wide of the off-stump. Wilson called it wide. Twenty-nine needed.
The Englishman’s next ball was also wide of the off-stump. No call from Wilson.
Hosein looked at Wilson as though he had just caught him on the sofa with his girlfriend.
The left-hander cracked the next ball for four. And the one after it. Twenty now needed off three balls to catch England.
So that was that. Or was it?
Mahmood bowled another wide. Captain Morgan was moved to have a word.
Stump mic did not catch it but Morgan presumably said something along the lines of ‘I don’t care if you get hit for three sixes, you’d better produce three legal deliveries next or I will introduce you to something more painful than the virus’!
So Mahmood complied, bowling three valid deliveries. Hosein smoked each one for a valid six.
The unbroken 72-run ninth-wicket partnership set a record for a game involving a full ICC member, with Hosein (44 off 16, 3 x 4, 4 x 6) and Shepherd (44 off 28, 1 x 4, 5 x 6) both posting new personal high scores.
Morgan’s men had won. But somehow, it was Pollard who wore the broader smile.
“We lost wickets in clusters but the way we fought at the back end,” said the WI skipper. “They can hit the ball a long way, and the confidence that Akeal has […] and Shepherd wants to put up his hand and take responsibility.
“[Spin] has been a thorn for us. We will overcome it; we are working diligently. But the biggest disappointment was our fielding display. But confidence is high and it augurs well for the next three games.”
Morgan too put on a brave face.
“I’m delighted, even with the last quarter of the game,” said the England captain. “These are the games we want to play in, tight games to work on death hitting and death bowling. But the majority of the day we adapted well, with more intent and clarity.”
He noted that England’s strategy was to test the patience of the West Indies batsmen with a rhythm of ‘dot, dot, dot, wicket, boundary’.
“We countered what West Indies had to offer,” said Morgan. “Every team in the world is trying to get better at death bowling… We’d like it to be up there with the best in the world.
“The majority of our plans was yorkers, to defend the wide side—and we missed.”
The teams have two days off before they return to Kensington Oval. After today’s thrill-a-minute encounter, it will be interesting to see which side enjoys the momentum.
A word on Mahmood. He probably couldn’t wait to get to the sanctity of his own hotel room.
And Wilson is probably still doing his level best to stay out of Hosein’s sight.
Toss: West Indies
England: 171 for 8 (Jason Roy 45, Moeen Ali 31; Jason Holder 2/25, Fabian Allen 2/50)
West Indies: 170 for 8 (Akeal Hosein 44*, Romario Shepherd 44*; Moeen Ali 3/24, Adil Rashid 2/24)
Man-of-the-Match: Moeen Ali
Result: England win by one run
The five-match series is level at 1-1
26 January: 3rd T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
29 January: 4th T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
30 January: 5th T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)