Ian Bell’s highly efficient 126 (117b, 12x4s, 1×6) took England to a sizable 288 for 6 and was enough to give the home side a 114-run Duckworth-Lewis adjusted win in the opening ODI against the West Indies in Southampton. Bell’s hundred was his second ever (nearly five years after his first and at the same ground) and expressed a bold statement from a man who is back in the England starting XI after the surprise retirement from international limited overs cricket of Kevin Pietersen.
There were great hopes for the West Indies in this series as their team’s potency has been augmented by the return of the IPL-playing “rebels” and the excitement about the inclusion of the prodigal Chris Gayle was very much the topic of conversation by the Jamaican fans in my train carriage on the way to the ground. But Gayle was ruled unfit to take the field and Bell, who was expected to sit out the match because of a jaw fracture, put paid to any great West Indian hopes.
The match scorecard reflects a terribly one-sided affair but the West Indies began their chase well and at 95/1 after 14 overs were streets ahead of the DL formula. Had bad weather intervened a little while earlier than it did when WI were 127/5, a protracted run-chase would have been very much to their advantage.
Opener Dwayne Smith scored a hostile 56 (44b, 2x4s, 1×6) that made England’s 288 appear achievable on a good surface but once he was caught behind off Tim Bresnan, very little resistance was offered by the visitors as they collapsed in an all too familiar fashion to be 172 all out. England should have put up a bigger score after being 163 for three at the 30-over mark but they batted in a manner that suggested that they believed 280 was a winning score and thanks to Tim Bresnan’s exceptional 4/34 they were right.
Jonathan Trott made a careful 42 (66b, 4x4s, 0×6) that kept Bell in good company and helped lay a fine platform after Alastair Cook was caught behind before a run had been scored after being put in to bat on a heavily overcast morning. The pair put on 108 runs in 20 overs to weather the storm and Bell continued to put England in the driving seat as the sun came out and the home side ended up getting the better of the day’s batting conditions.
A one to nil lead is a handsome thing in a three-match series, especially as play isn’t guaranteed on any given day on this wet summer. But the indomitable Chris Gayle is likely back for the next ODI on Tuesday at the Oval, a famous venue in West Indian cricketing history, and I just wonder if it might be some kind of turning point for West Indies cricket. Ah, the great hope.