Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Nuanced England showcase the leaps taken since 2016 heartbreak. England bowled out West Indies for just 55, and chased it down in the 9th over
England bowled out West Indies for just 55, and chased it down in the 9th over
Given what transpired between England and West Indies that famous night in Kolkata five and a half years ago, it is only natural that there was much anticipation ahead of the two sides meeting in this World Cup. Before the match, Eoin Morgan said it took him six months to get over that 2016 T20 WC final defeat. He also said, however, that he felt England had learnt a lot of lessons since then. Their dominant victory in Dubai proved as much. In so many ways, England are a vastly different team now. The West Indies, on the other hand, appear to have remained largely the same.
It is easy to forget that West Indies were 11 for 3 in that 2016 final and in all sorts of trouble as their ultra-aggressive approach came unstuck against, would you believe, the off-spin of Joe Root. Had it not been for a masterful innings from Marlon Samuels, who soaked up pressure before exploding later on, the game in Kolkata could have ended up just like this one, with the West Indies bundled out cheaply. As it was, Samuels set the platform for Carlos Brathwaite to deliver his final over heroics while England were not smart enough or experienced enough to take their chance.
Morgan's team are a far more rounded outfit now, though. They are vastly more experienced, clearly. They are more sure of themselves too, having dominated in both limited overs formats for the best part of four years. They are more flexible in their plans, have more variation to their game and have more players who can perform to the required standard when called upon. In 2016, had you taken out three of England's best T20 players, they would have been a shell of a team. This side can cope with the absence of Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran, first choice players all, and still deliver a performance of such dominance.
Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Tymal Mills picked up five wickets between them today. Six months ago, Woakes and Mills would have been unlikely to be part of this squad while Moeen didn't get a game during the series in India earlier this year and has rarely bowled much when he has played. And yet here they were today, ripping the guts out of the much heralded West Indies' batting line-up.
England are also better at seizing their opportunities now. After picking up three early wickets, Morgan could easily have sat back. Instead, he brought on Mills early, one of England's death bowlers, who bowled quick, aggressive lengths and removed Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran. Mills was bowled out by the 14th over. Moeen stayed on for four straight overs too against the raft of West Indies left-handers, exploiting the match-up. Both were attacking, ruthless moves. England were not content to just open the door with three early wickets. They wanted to blast the door off its hinges and walk it all the way across the room.
Those early wickets meant Adil Rashid, England's best and most aggressive bowler, did not come on until the 11th over when the West Indies were already in disarray. He took four wickets in 14 deliveries to seal the rout, bamboozling the tail with his leg-spinners, googly and front of the hand deliveries. The West Indies lower order looked as dazed facing Rashid as Boris Johnson does when asked a straight question.
Although they might not have shown it today with a couple of soft dismissals against Akeal Hosein, England's batting has more nuance to it now too. A few years ago, they often came unstuck on slow, turgid pitches. Those type of surfaces can still cause them problems but they are far better at negotiating them these days. Even so, they will want to bat better than they did here against Bangladesh on Wednesday. As well as Hosein bowled – quick, accurate and with an arm ball that swings deceptively – his two wickets were a little disappointing from England's perspective.
In contrast to Morgan's side, the West Indies do not look to have become a more rounded team in the five years since they won the 2016 tournament. That's not to say they have become a poor team. Far from it. As awful as their batting was on Saturday, in terms of execution, they still have formidable T20 pedigree running through their side. One poor innings, and a spate of shots which found the fielders, does not change that.
But today highlighted that they still appear to rely on the same batting strategy that brought them success in 2016, one that prioritises boundaries first, second and third. That is all well and good when it works well. It may even win them this tournament. But it is a high-risk strategy. When it flounders, when it's not executed well, things can go south very quickly as they did today.
After the match, Kieron Pollard said: “We lost a couple of wickets early on and expected the guys to bat a couple of overs, just knock it around and see if we could set it up for the back end but we kept losing wickets.” Pollard recognises that having different gears, particularly on these pitches in the UAE, is important. Yet his team have not yet shown they have added that sort of flexibility to their repertoire. Nobody was able to play today the sort of innings that Samuels played in 2016. It was a similar story in the West Indies' warm-up games too.
Perhaps it was simply one of those days. This is, after all, a West Indian batting line-up that has a number of players in poor form. There were also dismissals that, on another day, might not have gone to hand. Dwanye Bravo slapped a long-hop to point. Nicholas Pooran was caught behind from a half-volley. Shimron Hetmyer shanked a ball to mid-on that he might ordinarily smash to the boundary in his sleep. Pollard himself was caught on the boundary attempting a shot that on another day he would have hit for six. One of those days, perhaps. But the more it happens, the less it appears so.
The West Indies' captain certainly did not want to over analyse this defeat. “There's no words to explain it,” he said. “It was plain to see. I don't think we were good enough on all counts. Being bundled out for 55 is unacceptable. We accept that, we accept the responsibility. These sorts of games – we just have to bin it and move on.” Move on the West Indies must. They certainly have the quality to do just that. The question is whether they also have the adaptability.
England will be delighted, though. They dominated one of the teams who will challenge them for the trophy, several players who have not been regulars in the side did well, building up their confidence, and they got a huge net run rate boost too. Getting off to a good start is vital in any tournament but it is even more important in Group 1 given how difficult it is. England have certainly started as they mean to go on and in the process showed how much they have moved their game forward since the 2016 tournament.
In contrast, the West Indies have yet to show that they have done the same with theirs.