Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ali Martin at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium

England reignite T20 title defence with commanding win over West Indies

Phil Salt and Jonny Bairstow celebrate at the end of the match
Phil Salt and Jonny Bairstow saw England to an eight-wicket victory over the West Indies to kick off their Super Eights campaign at the T20 World Cup with a win in Saint Lucia. Photograph: Ramón Espinosa/AP

After a slightly soggy stumble out of the initial group stage, England’s defence of the men’s T20 World Cup finally kicked into life, with a clinical run chase against the highly fancied West Indies delivering the ideal start to the Super Eight stage.

Victory alone would have seen Jos Buttler’s side board the bus feeling good about life given the battle to simply reach this point. But the manner in which it was secured will have put the rest of the field on notice; a target of 181 reeled in with 15 balls and eight wickets to spare thanks to an utterly ruinous 47-ball knock of 87 not out from opener Phil Salt.

Although Jonny Bairstow would probably like a word here. The Yorkshireman has been bristling this past week, irked by the criticism that followed the 36-run defeat to Australia in Barbados. Striding out with England 84 for two at the halfway stage, his unbeaten 48 from 26 was just as key to the net run-rate boost delivered. After England’s next opponents South Africa could only secure a tight win over the USA earlier in the day, this could yet prove critical in the final shake-up for the top-two spots.

Bairstow had even threatened to overtake Salt at one stage, getting to within one hit of a half-century by smoking the 15th over from Akeal Hosein for 16 runs to leave 40 more required. But bar a couple more ­singles that was pretty much it from Bairstow. Salt, then on 49, responded by taking Romario Shepherd’s follow-up over for a staggering 30 runs.

Shepherd had only just returned in this match after a whistle-stop trip to Guyana for the birth of his second child. If nothing else, what followed was preparation for the messy late night situations that will inevitably follow, Salt crashing the right-arm quick for – 4, 6, 4, 6, 6, 4 – the white-ball flaring in the floodlights – and dousing all hope for the hosts.

Rovman Powell claimed afterwards his side’s 180 for four after being stuck in at the toss was serviceable, but it always felt sub-par. On a soupy evening played out to a pulsing soca beat, this was a surface on which the West Indies captain had personally sent five sixes into the night sky – his side striking 10 in total – and thus promised much more.

That promise was broken by a telling intervention from Jofra Archer in the 16th over. West Indies were 137 for two – albeit with Brandon King having also retired hurt on 23 with a side strain – and had Nicholas Pooran, fresh from an electric 98 on this ground against Afghanistan two nights earlier, ominously poised on 32 not out. This was when an innings in the balance tipped in England’s favour, Archer going full, beating Pooran’s bat four times either side of a streaky four, before his final ball found the edge. With Liam Livingstone having just bought the wicket of Powell at a cost of 20 runs, it meant two fresh batters at the crease for Adil Rashid to work on.

One of them was the mighty Andre Russell, who immediately failed to fully connect with a googly and swept to Salt in the deep. On a day when England sent down 10 wides, and Mark Wood suffered a 19-run over at the hands of Sherfane Rutherford late on,

England were grateful for Rashid’s four-over spell of one for 21, similarly Moeen Ali snuffing out home town favourite Johnson Charles when the opener holed out on 38.

England’s chase began in calculated fashion, a 58-run powerplay only a nudge above that of West Indies, as Salt and Buttler looked to see off the wily Hosein, arm-ball et al. Amid this early duel came the one chance that might have changed the final outcome, Pooran failing to snaffle a toe-ended nick behind. When the right-hander slotted the first of his five sixes back over Russell’s head next over, it was salt in the West Indies’ wound.

It took a smart piece of bowling from Roston Chase to remove Buttler for 25 in the eighth over, the off-spinner spotting his mark advance and firing one in from the front of the hand for a simple lbw. When Moeen, promoted to No 3 for his left-handedness, perished trying to hook Russell into the wind on 10, a twist still looked possible.

Instead, Bairstow strode out chewing gum and taking names like it was a press conference, his punchy counterattack setting the stage for Salt’s grand finale off Shepherd.

“It was good fun,” player of the match Salt said afterwards, admitting England had “needed a game like that” after those early tournament frustrations.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.