The Report by David Hopps (cricinfo)
As forecast, a West Indies comeback gave England nightmares at Kensington Oval, but the much-heralded return of Chris Gayle was overshadowed by Marlon Samuels. Samuels is the Yohan Blake to Gayle’s Usain Bolt, the silver-medallist support act, but his unbeaten 69 from 46 balls was a reminder ahead of the World T20 that both batsmen possess a considerable threat.
Samuels, a vital component of West Indies World T20 victory in Sri Lanka 18 months ago, spoke at the interval of getting fit in the gym, and with lots of running. As ever with Gayle, his expression hidden behind shades, one imagined that his fitness levels had been explored more languidly. It was no surprise that their joint presence persuaded West Indies’ captain Darren Sammy to announce that their bid to retain their World T20 crown in Bangladesh started here.
If it did start here then England are in a considerable mess. They made much play of picking a side to win in Barbados, and letting Bangladesh take care of itself. But Kensington Oval encouraged spin bowling, just as Chittagong – where England are based – can be expected to and their reliance on a quartet of pace bowlers put them up against it from the outset.
England conceded 170, the highest score ever made in T20 at Kensington Oval, on a good batting surface with decent pace. Then, before a sizeable contingent of English holidaymakers, they stumbled to 70 for 6 in return against West Indies’ spinners, who gleefully accepted a bounty of 6 for 46 in 10 overs. The target had been challenging, but not impossible. An eventual defeat by 27 runs was a merciful release.
To make matters worse for England, the captain, Stuart Broad, is suffering from tendonitis, an ailment bad enough to restrict him to two overs and then see him run out, limping, by the West Indies wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin. Another cortisone injection looks bound to follow. West Indies also have injury concerns over Sunil Narine, who was heading for a scan on a knee which he jarred attempting a stop on the boundary.
England’s state of mind at present against spin bowling is dreadful. They improved as the ODI series in Antigua went on, but here their befuddlement returned. Samuel Badree rolled out his legspinners to such good effect that he dismissed the top three for only 17 runs – Alex Hales and Luke Wright stumped in successive balls. If Hales’ demise spoke of his weakness against slow bowling, Badree easily spotting his ineffectual advance down the wicket, Wright’s wind-up, first ball, was staggeringly misconceived as he missed by distance, held the pose, and was adjudged by the TV umpire to be out of his ground. It was not all good news for Badree, though: on a night when the physios were never far from the action, Badree also damaged a finger near the end of his spell.
The only West Indies slow bowler to be briefly unhinged – injuries apart – was Samuels and even that was due to a tart comment from Ravi Bopara in mid-pitch. As it followed Samuels’ contentious quicker ball, one can only guess the legitimacy of his action might have got a mention. Both umpires and the West Indies captain Darren Sammy were involved before a truce was negotiated.
Bopara, employed as low as No 6, moves around this England order like a Traveller in permanent threat of eviction from another patch of waste ground. He put up a respectable fist of things with 42, but Samuels also took two top-order wickets, having Eoin Morgan well caught at deep midwicket by Johnson Charles and engineering a third stumping, that of Ben Stokes, who has yet to gain the same cachet in his T20 career as in his first year in Test cricket.
If West Indies wanted to provide a message at the start of this three-match warm-up for Bangladesh, Dwayne Smith offered it from the first ball: a one-legged pull for six over deep square-leg. By the end of Broad’s opening over, there had not as much been a message as an entire speech – 19 runs in all.
Gayle is rarely perturbed about being overshadowed at the start of an innings. He often absorbs the early deliveries like blotting paper soaking up ink splatters (ask your Dad) and those ink splatters, suitably, were propelled by Dernbach, who was not just inked up in terms of body art but inked in on the team sheet, preferred no less to Chris Jordan, who had been hoping to represent England for the first time in his native island.
He managed only three singles from his first 11 balls. Three boundaries in four balls against Tim Bresnan suggested his glutes, as he had indicated, were in decent order. After spotting nothing untoward in Stokes’ first ball, he ambled down the pitch to put him in the stands.
Bopara’s solid night began with figures of 2 for 23. His nip-backer, second ball up, to bowl Smith caused the batsman to look back in consternation on his return to the pavilion as if he could not quite believe what he had witnessed. In his final over, Lendl Simmons hauled a shortish ball to Michael Lumb at long on.
Tredwell’s figures were even better – 16 conceded in four overs, with 15 dot balls. Considering that Gayle lackadaisically propelled one out of the ground, the ball bouncing off the corrugated iron roof, it was quite an achievement. There was the crowning achievement, too, in the wicket of Gayle, who swung and missed at one that turned then next ball was lbw against one that slid on.
Tredwell’s contribution was less impressive when he dropped Samuels, on 43, at cover, with three overs remaining. Samuels, so reprieved, took 20 off the over but even allowing for that Dernbach, the unfortunate bowler had one of his better nights. Not that it was much consolation for England.