An efficient West Indies defeated England by five wickets to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match Twenty20 International series at Kensington Oval today.
Batting first England made 152 for 7 in their rain-interrupted innings with wicketkeeper/batsman Jos Buttler recording a career-high 67 for the visitors in the shortest format of the game.
But West Indies were always on course for victory after a typically belligerent opening stand from power-hitters Dwayne Smith and Chris Gayle. They eventually reached their victory target with seven balls to spare.
The England seamers could do little to contain Smith and Gayle – Tim Bresnan (2 for 51) and Jade Dernbach (1 for 30) coming in for some spiteful punishment as they put on 48 runs from the first 27 balls of the chase.
Dernbach did have Smith caught by Bresnan for 30 off 18 deliveries before Gayle and Marlon Samuels became more circumspect in adding a further 27.
Gayle played on to Ravi Bopara for 36 but the Windies were still well on course despite the fall of Lendl Simmons (19) to Luke Wright with the score on 111 in the 15th over.
Bresnan returned to have Andre Russell (2) and Samuels (28 off 35) caught by Alex Hales in the deep but it was only a minor scare for the hosts, as captain Darren Sammy quickly dispelled any notion of a collapse by bludgeoning 30 off just nine balls to close off the game.
Buttler had earlier hit his second half-century in this format, and shared a fourth-wicket stand of 76 with Hales after England chose to bat first in this must-win match.
As in Sunday’s fixture at the same venue, when they fell short in a run chase, England lost early wickets – this time to left-arm swing bowler Krishmar Santokie who finished with 4 for 21.
But Buttler responded with a 33-ball fifty, full of his trademark clean hitting and inventive placement – striking five fours and three sixes in all.
Santokie, called up in place of the injured Sunil Narine, had put England on the back foot with both Michael Lumb and Moeen Ali falling lbw, the opener going across his stumps and missing a full-toss and his fellow left-hander bamboozled by a clever slower ball.
When captain Eoin Morgan then mistimed a sweep at Samuel Badree straight to deep square-leg, England were a precarious 26 for 3 three after five overs.
In the first seven overs, there were only two boundaries, and from the penultimate delivery of the 10th an overdue six – Hales hoisting Marlon Samuels over long on.
By then, Hales had escaped a very good Samuel Badree lbw appeal on 10 and been dropped by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin when he mishit a swirling chance high to short third man on 15.
Hales also gave a half-chance to a diving Chris Gayle off Darren Sammy at point on 29, and Buttler escaped on 45 when Dwayne Bravo could not hold a skier as the bowler himself chased another mistimed shot into the off-side.
But between the mishits, there were an increasing number of very well-struck shots – especially from Buttler – as he and Hales piled on 33 in two overs, from Sammy and Ravi Rampaul.
Hales’ luck finally ran out when, like Morgan before him, he hit into the wind and was held on the mid-wicket boundary off Bravo.
A 45-minute break for rain interrupted England after 14.3 overs, but Buttler returned to complete his half-century before he and Ravi Bopara holed out in Santokie’s remaining over to give the left-arm Man-of-the-Match his best figures in only his fourth international match.
Sammy said afterwards the series win felt good coming before the Twenty20 World Cup and praised the efforts of his team-mates.
“We have one more game before we head to Bangladesh, so we would like to entertain the crowd. Santokie was always a good talent, but he grabbed it with two hands today by bowling a superb spell. We have some good bowlers like Badree, Narine, Bravo and Samuels. We have a good all-round team, but we have some niggles in the team and we would like to give other guys a chance in the last match,” he said.
England captain Morgan said England did not score enough runs.
“We were 15-20 runs short. We didn’t start off well, but Hales and Butler brought us back and the rain delay hampered our momentum. We showed lot of fight in this match ahead of the World Twenty 20. We hope to improve in the last game and do well in the World Cup,” he said.
The final Twenty20 International is on Thursday.