The West Indies’ T20 World Cup title defence got off to a disastrous start today as, asked to bat first, the ‘Men in Maroon’ posted the third lowest total ever at this level, managing just 55 runs against England at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the UAE.
Only 42-year-old batsman Chris Gayle got to double figures (13 off 13, 3 x 4), as England eventually coasted to a 6-wkt win with 70 balls to spare. It was the first time that England ever defeated West Indies in a T20 World Cup match, after five prior attempts.
“It was unacceptable, we accept that,” said West Indies captain Kieron Pollard in the post-match interview. “These sorts of games sometimes, we just need to bin it. For us, it’s just a matter of finding our straps. We haven’t batted well in our three games so far.
“We went out, guys tried to play their shots, and it didn’t come off.”
The ICC records show that only the Netherlands ever put up a worse score, with 39 (2014 World Cup) and 55 (2021 World Cup) runs respectively—both times against Sri Lanka.
It left England requiring a run-rate of just 2.8 when their openers strode out to the middle. They needed only 8.2 overs to complete the job with 56 for 4. The margin of defeat was a surprise but, statistically-speaking, the final result was not.
The West Indies T20 Team, who are on a four-match losing streak, entered the competition ranked ninth in the world in this format—behind Bangladesh in seventh and Afghanistan in eighth place. The only Test-playing nation in worse position are Sri Lanka, in tenth spot.
England, incidentally, are at the top of the ICC rankings.
West Indies’ title hopes, then, rely on their experienced, talented players ‘showing up’ at just the right time to make a mockery of their collective form.
Against England on 23 October was clearly not the right time.
Dangerous opener Evin Lewis smashed the last ball of the first over for six as WI took seven off Moeen Ali’s off-spin. But it was his only scoring shot as, off the third ball of the second over, he departed, caught by Ali at mid-off off Chris Woakes. That made the score 8 for 1. It was the West Indies’ only six of the innings.
“A catch like that gives you a bit of confidence, I think it settled my nerves a bit,” Ali told espncricinfo, about his well-judged effort to dismiss Lewis.
Only three of England’s first 11 overs did not result in the loss of a wicket as WI tumbled to 44 for 7. Nicholas Pooran (1 off 9) was the only batsman caught behind, nicking a Tymal Mills delivery to Jos Buttler, while Andre Russell (0 off 2) lost his middle-stump to the leg-spin of Adil Rashid.
The all-rounder’s’s wild swing and miss at the first delivery he faced, off Mills, summarised the West Indies approach—according to the ESPN commentator.
“The West Indies have created a new game,” he commented wryly, “It is called ‘search for the fielder’.”
The 33-year-old Rashid filled his boots with career-best figures of 4/2 and 12 of his 14 deliveries were dot balls. Mills and Ali both took 2/17 off their four overs.
In total, England managed 59 dot balls from 73 deliveries with Ali (18 dot balls off 24 deliveries) adjudged Man-of-the-Match.
“They do have a lot of left-handers at the top, so I knew I would be bowling early on,” said Ali. “The role at [IPL team Chennai Super Kings] is very important for me; it feels like I’m always involved with bat and ball and on the field too, and it was the perfect preparation coming into the World Cup.”
Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein, who was only added to the West Indies team on Wednesday as a replacement for the injured Fabian Allen, made a memorable World Cup debut, capturing 2/24 off his four overs.
The 28-year-old former Success Laventille student only debuted for the West Indies T20 side on 2 July 2021 and had been economical but wicket-less before today’s contest, when he had caught both Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone off his own bowling.
“Getting an opportunity because of the injury to Fabian Allen, everything happens for a reason,” said Pollard, “and Akeal Hosein showed us what he can do.”
Veteran pacer Ravi Rampaul made the first breakthrough, accounting for opener Jason Roy (10 off 11), caught by Chris Gayle at short mid-wicket off a slower ball.
But there was little else to celebrate for West Indies fans, as Buttler finished unbeaten on 24 off 22 balls and England won comfortably.
“It’s as good as it gets—to start our campaign like that,” said England captain Eoin Morgan. “All credit to our bowling unit, The guys were very disciplined, and we took our chances. I think Moeen Ali read the conditions beautifully; he took chances when his match-up was in his favour.”
Next up, Pollard’s troops face South Africa on Tuesday in a match of increased significance for the two teams. In the opening game of the Super 12 earlier in the day, Australia defeated the Proteas by five wickets with just two balls to spare.
Only the top two teams in the group advance to the semi-final knockout stage of the tournament.
“I don’t think any sort of panic will come into our camp,” said Pollard. “It is what it is. We just need to take it on our chest and move on; this is international sport.
“Obviously, we play a lot of cricket around the world, and this is not the first time something like this has happened. We’ve played cricket around the world and we have the experience of games like this.”
West Indies 55 all out (Chris Gayle 13; Adil Rashid 4/2, Moeen Ali 2/17, Tymal Mills 2/17);
England 56 for 4 (Jos Buttler 24*; Akeal Hosein 2/24, Ravi Rampaul 1/14);
Man-of-the-Match: Moeen Ali
Result: England won by 6 wkts.