Man-of-the-Match Jason Holder sent back four batsmen for seven runs to dismiss top-ranked England for a paltry 103 in the first of five ODIs at Kensington Oval in Barbados today.
And then Brandon King, continuing the rich vein of form he re-found in Pakistan, hit a confident half-century to push Pollard’s tenth-ranked West Indies to a satisfying nine-wicket win.
For Holder, he told the post-match interviewer, ‘the challenge is being consistent and repeating it tomorrow’. That ‘it’ was not so much his performance as the team performance and, above all, the result. England completely dominated the last series in the Caribbean in March 2019, winning by four wickets, 137 runs and eight wickets.
The ex-ODI skipper was not the first to get into the act. But the two wickets he claimed in two balls in his three-over powerplay spell put the skids under Eoin Morgan’s World Champions. He had Tom Banton well caught low down at slip before Mooen Ali drove his next ball low to point where Fabian Allen came up with another low catch.
And perhaps drawing inspiration from the clinical display his teammates put on in the field, he returned at the end to have Allen catch Saqib Mahmood on the midwicket boundary and then removed the defiant Adil Rashid’s leg-stump with his next ball to wrap up the England innings.
He finished with the rare figures of 3.4-18-7-4 while Cottrell’s analysis read 4-16-30-2 while Hosein claimed 1/16.
The convincing victory was no one-man show. West Indian cricketing history has quite a few examples of failed chases of modest targets. Led by King, Pollard’s men ensured there was would be no addition to the list today.
Although Morgan used five different bowlers in the first eight overs and six in the first 12, King (55* off 49) and Shai Hope (20 off 25, 2 x 4) put their heads down and steered the team past the halfway mark.
Then, with the score on 52, Hope wandered down the track to get after a Rashid leg-spinner. He missed. Sam Billings behind the stumps did not.
The opening partnership was just three runs short of the 55 Pollard’s entire team had managed in the Dubai International Stadium in October when only Chris Gayle reached double figures with 13.
And Hope’s dismissal was Rashid’s and England’s only success with the ball on the day, The leggie finished with 1/21, a far cry from the 4/2 he recorded in the UAE match-up.
In at number three, Pooran (27* off 29, 2 x 4) looked no more convincing than he had against Ireland, when he contributed a mere 16 in three innings. Or in Dubai, when Tymal Mills had him caught by Jos Buttler for a duck.
His in-form partner, however, deemed not good enough to make the World Cup squad, never looked troubled at any stage. The pair remained together until the end, when the left-hander began to look something like the fluent, free scorer he has shown he can be.
King’s half-century contained four sweetly struck off-side boundaries and one towering six. And he never looked troubled either by the left-hand stuff on offer from Liam Dawson and Mills or the right-handed fare from Mahmood, Moeen Ali, Rashid or Chris Jordan, who finished as top wicket-taker with six scalps three years ago.
Earlier, after Pollard won the toss and gave them first use of the bouncy track, England had no answers. Sheldon Cottrell’s fifth ball ended up in the stands off the middle of Jason Roy’s bat. His sixth swung past the bat and hit the middle of the middle stump.
It was a mini-pattern that emerged in the innings, James Vince (14 off 12, 2 x 4, 1 x 6) and Morgan (17 off 29, 1 x 6) also clearing the boundary only to be dismissed off the next ball.
Vince hit a Cottrell long-hop hard but straight to Darren Bravo at extra-cover and Pollard swallowed a tame drive off the left-handed Morgan in the same position. And when Dawson took off for an imaginary run, Pollard’s accurate low throw to the wicketkeeper gave him not even a hint of a chance.
From 24 for 4 at the end of the powerplay, the English limped to 49 for 7 at the end of the 12th. Top-scorer Jordan (28 off 23, 3 x 6) struck a few lusty blows to get them close to the three-figure landmark. And Rashid (22 off 18, 3 x 4) too got his bottom hand into the act to get them past the psychological milestone.
Essentially, however, Pollard and his bowlers kept the shackles on throughout, only four batsmen reaching double figures.
In fact, the skipper could allow himself the luxury of two overs near the end so as not to expose Odean Smith, a possible trump card for the four other matches that lie ahead.
Morgan’s post-match comments focused precisely on what lies ahead.
“Trying to get our minds around risk-reward,” he told interviewer Mark Butcher, “was a challenge but we hope to play better cricket tomorrow, Wednesday and next weekend.”
Implicitly concurring with Holder’s assessment of what is the challenge for the West Indies, Pollard lauded the clinical display his team had produced. He praised the batsmen for noticing that ‘the wicket was not conducive to stroke play’ and making the required adjustment.
But perhaps with both the 2022 T20 World Cup and the recent 1-2 ODI defeat by Ireland in mind, the skipper too may well be wondering which West Indies will turn up in the remaining games.
Toss: West Indies
England: 103 all out (19.4 overs) (Chris Jordan 28, Adil Rashid 22; Jason Holder 4/7, Sheldon Cottrell 2/30, Akeal Hosein 1/16)
West Indies: 104 for 1 (17.1 overs) (Brandon King 52*, Nicholas Pooran 27*, Shai Hope 20; Adil Rashid 1/21)
Man-of-the-Match: Jason Holder
Result: West Indies win by 9 wkts
West Indies lead five-match series 1-0