Well, it was the same old story for the West Indies at the Oval today as they conceded yet another sorry loss to England on this tour, this time by eight wickets and with five overs remaining. The victory gives England an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
Once again the visitors started promisingly as Chris Gayle (53 runs, 51b, 3×4, 5×6) played himself in and then walloped five sixes over the space of eleven balls while Lendl Simmons (12 runs, 50b, 1×4)) painstakingly kept up the other end. At 63 without loss in the fifteenth over and with Gayle hitting his straps, they might not have minded that Alastair Cook sent them in to bat.
But when Gayle was adjudged LBW to Graeme Swann by umpire Tony Hill and the review did not see the decision overturned as it was impossible to know for sure if the ball hit the bat or the pad first, the game was instantly up. After the match Dwayne Bravo told the media that the West Indies camp were adamant that Gayle was not out and hinted that the decision could well have robbed the side from putting up a good score.
Before one knew it the visitors were 79/4 in the 21st over. Dwayne Smith had gone for a duck and Simmons’s 96-minute 12-run innings ended with a run-out shortly before Marlon Samuels (13, 21b, 2×4) threw his wicket away slogging for the ropes when consolidation was the order of the day. Dwayne Bravo (77, 82b, 8×4, 2×6) and Kieron Pollard (41, 52b, 3×4, 1×6) did well to pick up the pieces but their 100-run partnership from 18.5 overs – spirited as it was – served little purpose other than to show that the wicket was good and their top-order had failed them once again.
239 was never likely to be a challenging target for an England team that has won all six ODI matches it has played this year. The sun shone down on the Oval for most of the afternoon and skipper Alastair Cook knocked up a very fine ton (112, 120b, 13×4, 1×6) in front of an Oval crowd that was subdued by a combination of yesterday’s tragic death of Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard and the one-sided nature of the day’s play.
A neat half-century from Ian Bell (53, 64b, 7×4) further justified the selectors’ decision to start him at the top of the order and Ravi Bopara (19, 18b, 2×4) and Jonathan Trott (43, 68b, 3×4) wrapped up the chase efficiently. All five of England’s front-line bowlers were amongst the wickets and all five batsmen who got a chance out in the middle made runs. Such is the nature of this side under Andy Flower and Alastair Cook: no need for fireworks but everyone is to contribute. This slowly slowly catchy monkey approach lies in stark contrast to the erratic West Indians whose hopes far too often rely on explosive individual performances.
As Cook said post match, “It’s frustrating bowling to Gayle because when facing identical balls he may hit one for a huge six and then block the next,” but despite his entertaining half-century, Chris Gayle failed to do enough to guide his side towards a winning score and by the time Dwayne Bravo could put together a decent innings, the overs remaining were too limited. The West Indies have competed well for periods of this tour but have lacked the consistency to challenge their counterparts enough to beat them in any game.
A dead rubber in Headingley on Friday and a single T20 in Nottingham on Sunday will be the Windies’ last fixtures of this short and tough tour before they head “home” (they are to play a couple games in Miami, Florida) to face New Zealand, a side they are probably favourites to beat. Whatever the outcome of Friday’s ODI, the West Indies will have gained some invaluable experience on this tour.
Dwayne Bravo summed it up well at the post-match conference: “We should have given a better account of ourselves but they have world-class talented players. We just need to be more consistent. We could pick a page from out of their book and put it into ours. We need to find the right mix of reliable timers (like England have) and power-hitters (West Indies) if we are to become a better side.”