England 226 for 6 (Root 90*, Woakes 68*, Nurse 3-34) beat West Indies 225 (Mohammed 50, Plunkett 3-32) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England’s limited-overs resurgence may have been built upon aggressive batting but it was, for the second game in succession, their calm under pressure that led them to victory in Antigua.
With their side reeling against a familiar foe – spin bowling – at 124 for 6 and having just lost 4 for 16, Joe Root and Chris Woakes produced an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 102 to take England to a four-wicket victory with 10 deliveries remaining. It means England have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, with only Thursday’s game in Barbados to come.
This was a far from straightforward win, though. On a two-paced, slow surface that rendered it difficult to time the ball, the batsmen of both sides struggled to dominate.
And, had one of the edges offered by Root (on 0 and 51) gone to hand or Rovman Powell and Jason Holder been able to cling on to relatively straightforward chances offered by Woakes on 42 and 58, things might have been different. But Root’s first edge landed just in front of first slip and his second bisected slip and the keeper, and West Indies sorely missed their premier fast bowler, Shannon Gabriel, who was forced off the pitch with a side strain after three overs of his spell.
Jason Roy also enjoyed a moment of fortune. He survived a strong appeal for caught behind off Holder before he had scored. And though replays suggested a possible deviation of the ball and there was a sound on the stump microphone, the TV umpire concluded reasonably enough that he did not have enough evidence to overturn the on-field umpire’s not-out decision. Had the host board or host broadcaster been able to come to a deal over the use of ultra-edge – understood to have been priced at £8,000 for this series – there might well have been a different result.
Gabriel’s absence allowed Root and Woakes to play out the spinners, rotate the stroke and pick off the runs. The run-rate never rose close to five-an-over and, with Carlos Brathwaite unable to sustain the pressure of the senior bowlers, England simply had to wait for his return and the relatively easy runs that followed. Crucially, while Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo claimed five wickets for 77 from their 20 overs combined, Brathwaite conceded 38 runs in four wicketless overs.
It was only Woakes’ second List A 50 for England, with the first (an unbeaten innings of 95) coming in the dramatic tie against Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge last year. He might not be the most pleasing or powerful allrounder in this side, but he has a wonderfully equable temperament and perhaps only Root has a better technique with the bat. His six off Carlos Brathwaite, driven over long-off, was one of the shots of the day.
Root, playing within himself, hit only three boundaries. But this was exactly the sort of mature contribution that his captain had provided in the first ODI and, in its way, a masterful demonstration of how to control a limited-overs chase.
All of which probably makes it sound like an exciting game. And it is true, it rose to a climax of sorts. But just as a rock fall might be dramatic, it doesn’t make the thousands of years of erosion that lead to it great entertainment. This match was not played on a surface that encouraged attractive or, for long periods, entertaining cricket.
It may be widely presumed in these parts that hosting England is something close to a licence to print money. And it is true that somewhere approaching 8,000 travelling supporters made up the bulk of the crowd. But if Antigua continues to greet them with tired hotels, roads that make even the shortest journey laborious and wretched pitches that produce stultifying cricket, they may find they spend their money – and their holiday allowance – elsewhere. Nobody wants the homogenisation of pitches but, with the game fighting for its place among other leisure pursuits, we have to provide better entertainment than this to appeal to an audience beyond the die-hard cricket fan.
Still, England can’t hide behind that as an excuse for their middle-order fragility. Instead they will accept that the accuracy and variations of the offspinner Nurse and the turn offered by the legspinner Bishoo illustrated flaws that never linger too far from the surface of English cricket: a weakness against spin bowling.
Roy ensured a bright start for England with a fluent half-century but it was his dismissal, caught at long-on, that precipitated a collapse that saw England lose five wickets for 37 runs in 10 overs. Morgan was bowled by one that appeared to skid on with the arm, before Jos Buttler edged a late cut – a poor choice of shot with a slip in place – and Moeen Ali was punished for playing back to one that drifted in, pitched and turned to hit the top of off stump. It was fine bowling by Nurse, who didn’t concede a boundary in his 10 overs, in particular. He has looked the best spinner on either side in this series.
But with the specialist spinners bowled out, Holder had no choice but to turn to Carlos Brathwaite and his part-time spinners. Brathwaite’s first over back conceded 10, including that six from Woakes, and the pressure eased never to return.
West Indies’ batting was inadequate, though. While Kraigg Brathwaite and Jason Mohammed were able to add 72 for the fourth wicket, West Indies’ power hitters failed once more as England’s seamers varied their pace cunningly on a surface offering them enough assistance to render length bowling a reasonable tactic. West Indies were bowled out with 13 deliveries of their allocation unused and mustered only 15 fours in their entire innings.
While Root and Woakes attempted, for the most part, to keep the ball on the ground, five of West Indies’ batsmen fell to catches lofted up to the cordon as a result of mis-timed strokes. Liam Plunkett, varying his pace cleverly, added three wickets to the four he took in the first ODI, while Steven Finn became the tenth England bowler to claim 100 ODI wickets. He is also the third quickest in terms of games (he has played 67 ODIs) behind Darren Gough and Stuart Broad, who both achieved the milestone in 62 ODIs.