England 303 for 6 (Root 107, Buttler 99, Moeen 55) beat West Indies 278 (Ramdin 128, Bresnan 3-45) by 25 runs
For the first time since September, England have won two matches in a row – with starring roles for two young batsmen – though it was not without some tension towards the end as Denesh Ramdin flayed the ball around the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium for a career-best 128, but ultimately West Indies’ under-performing top order had left too much to do.
Ramdin’s was not the first maiden hundred of the day; and it was Joe Root‘s that finished on the winning side. Two players viewed as central to England’s rebuilding formed the most substantial part their success as Root, battling the pain of a damaged thumb, and Jos Buttler added 175 for the fifth wicket although it turned out more of those runs were needed than appeared likely at one point in West Indies’ chase.
At 43 for 4 it needed something of James Faulkner in Brisbane and Shahid Afridi in Mirpur combined to turn the innings around. It was not far off emerging. For a while Ramdin and Darren Sammy threatened with a stand of 71 in 10 overs, then Ramdin continued the charge with the first hundred by a West Indies keeper in one-day cricket, reached with his third six off Stephen Parry. He took advantage of England’s persistence at bowling short, fetching sixes on both sides of the wicket, and there was a lesson for the bowlers when Bresnan finally ended the chances of an incredible turnaround with, yes, a yorker that hit leg stump.
On a surface being used for the third time in a row, but that defied expectations having been extensively worked on between matches, strokeplay was easier than at any time in the series. West Indies will rue that none of their top four could provide a similar role to Root because Ramdin’s late onslaught reminded, yet again, that asking rates of over ten an over are achievable with wickets in hand.
Root’s hundred came off 112 balls and was another window into the character of a 23-year-old who, like many, endured a tough time in Australia where he lost his place in the Test and one-day sides. Buttler appeared set to join him with a maiden century but, facing Ravi Rampaul in the final over, got a leading edge so had to settle for 99 off 84 balls. Their impish partnership, pock-marked by Buttler’s strong hitting in the latter stages, was England’s second highest for the fifth wicket in ODIs. Root’s fine day continued when he struck in his first over with the ball but he soon had to leave the field to have ice treatment on his thumb and be sent for an X-ray.
England’s innings was in the balance at the midway mark, West Indies having removed four wickets to even out Moeen Ali’s maiden half-century – a fluent innings ended by a return catch to Nikita Miller – but, after Eoin Morgan had been beaten by Sunil Narine’s spin, Root and Buttler ensured England did not stall from a potentially tricky 116 for 4.
There was a key moment when Buttler had 22 and successfully overturned a caught behind decision, despite there not appearing to be conclusive evidence to do so, and earlier Root had been given a life on 23 when Ramdin could not gather an outside edge off Narine.
England played Narine cautiously for most of his allotment but his ninth over cost 21 as Buttler twice cleared the boundary – the second occasion off a free-hit. The batting Powerplay had not proved to be the downfall it so often seems, bringing a consolidating 36 in the five overs, which set up a final 10 overs that accrued 94.
Root had started his innings facing a hat-trick delivery from Dwayne Bravo after the West Indies captain had removed Michael Lumb and Ben Stokes. He calmly defended the delivery but was in some severe discomfort a short while later when a ball from Rampaul climbed at him from a good length, striking a nasty blow on the thumb of his bottom hand.
He needed several minutes of treatment, some strapping and a dose of painkillers before resuming and then had to ensure his thumb did not seize up during a brief rain break. He continued to shake his hand throughout the innings, especially when the ball struck higher up his bat, but in a tremendous display of focus and application did not let it impact his strokeplay.
Buttler had missed out in the first two matches of the series when his finishing skills were needed, but in this innings reminded that he can set a total as well as hunt one down. Early on he still barely knew what Narine was bowling, but reigned in his ambitions to attack him knowing that there was easier fare on offer from the other end.
After bringing up his fifty off 56 deliveries he then opened his shoulders to pick up four sixes, forming an ideal contrast to Root who, while possessing the power to clear the ropes, played the anchor role and ran West Indies ragged.
West Indies’ chase began in fairly shambolic fashion; Kieran Powell missing a sweep and Dwayne Smith picking out deep square-leg against Stuart Broad’s first ball. Broad bowled a lively five-over spell, which included a heated four-ball period against Lendl Simmons, who Broad was convinced had edged behind and was flabbergasted when the TV umpire, quite understandably, upheld the not-out decision.
“Come on lads, guilty shot coming,” shouted Buttler from behind the stumps and three balls later Simmons dragged a pull into his stumps, much to Broad’s delighted, although it could easily have been classed a ‘poor shot’ as much as a ‘guilty shot’.
Unlike Buttler, a caught-behind decision off Marlon Samuels was upheld and when Dwayne Bravo edged Ravi Bopara behind the requirement was 173 off 20 overs. To start with there was a sense of hopeful dash in the way Ramdin and Sammy played, but such was their impact that the run-rate – if not the wickets in hand – was not unmanageable and there was relief for England when Ben Stokes took a superbly judged boundary catch at deep square-leg to remove Sammy.
Ramdin continued to swing freely but he could not rely much on the lower order. Miller found it difficult to get the ball away and Narine, after one towering six, was caught backing up too far. However, when Ramdin crunched the first three balls of the 48th over for six, four, four it was not beyond the realms he could finish the game himself. Then Bresnan remembered one of cricket’s long-standing limited-overs deliveries. It was an untidy finish for England but, after the six months they have had, they will take a series win however it comes.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo