A match that offered fabulous entertainment, three marvellous individual innings, 31 sixes and the two highest scores ever posted in Twenty20 internationals at Kensington Oval ended with England falling 20 runs short of West Indies’ formidable total of 224 and falling 2-1 behind in what is proving a memorable five-game series.
On the pitch adjacent to the one on which both sides struggled to score in Saturday’s opening T20, neither was similarly inconvenienced. Tom Banton’s excellent 39-ball 73 kept England approximately on track to chase down their target, but unlike Nicholas Pooran and Rovman Powell, who had formed a formidable double act a little earlier, he did not find a teammate to help shoulder the burden.
Banton and Phil Salt did spend eight balls in the middle together, but the opener departed before his partner, one of three England debutants, had faced a ball, picking out Jason Holder at long-on when trying to hit Kieron Pollard for successive sixes.
With his departure England’s chances of victory seemed to dip as precipitously as had the ball, but Salt was superb in scoring 57 off 24 balls before he fell in the final over, having kept England’s score soaring at enough of a pace for success to remain a not completely outlandish possibility until very nearly the end.
“With the scoreboard looking the way it was, it was very clear what I needed to do,” Salt said. “I was only thinking about winning. When you come into the group the mentality you need to have is clear: winning the game was the only thing on my mind at the time.” He fell short of that target, but well enough to ensure there will be more opportunities to come.
After winning the toss and choosing, as they do, to bat second England hit upon a novel way to reduce attention on their recently leaky death bowling: to leak runs consistently throughout the innings. As a result, and thanks to some marvellous batting from Pooran and Powell – who both posted the highest T20i score of their careers – West Indies were able to set a new all-time record third-wicket partnership, more than 200 runs were scored in Barbados for the first (but not the last) time in T20 internationals, and the umpires must have very nearly run out of the antiseptic wipes they use to cleanse the ball of potential viral scraps every time it is returned from the stands. Including leg byes (one) and wides (one) 30 boundaries
were registered in the hosts’ innings; only five overs were entirely
boundary-free and 13 contained at least one six.
Powell was the one new face in the West Indies side, replacing Odean Smith – rested after the exertions of facing a total of three balls and bowling six in the two opening fixtures – to impressive effect. Meanwhile England’s gave debuts to Harry Brook and George Garton as well as Salt, had a different captain – Moeen Ali deputising after Eoin Morgan felt a muscle strain in the warm-up – and a new wicketkeeper, with Banton taking the gloves as Sam Billings returned to his traditional if unwanted drink-carrying role.
The result of all this was that England fielded three left-arm seamers, but it was a left-handed batter who first caught the eye. After Garton dismissed Brandon King in his first over, Pooran came in and immediately took control, and by the time Shai Hope – West Indies’ other opener – was dismissed Hope had four and Pooran was already on 32.
But by then Pooran’s period as the outstanding batter was over, as he was instantly overshadowed by Powell. The 28-year-old slog-swept his second ball of the night for six and kept going from there, his fluency such that Pooran was soon reduced to accepting singles just to get his teammate back on strike.
There was one shot in particular that illustrated Powell’s timing, when he deflected a Reece Topley full toss way over the boundary for six while off balance and barely moving his bat at all.
By the midway point of the 11th over both players had faced 27 balls, Pooran scoring 46 and Powell 45, and they continued to go stride for stride from there: Pooran took 34 balls to reach a half-century, Powell 31. Both were eventually caught in the deep by Livingstone, Pooran for a 43-ball 70 and Powell a superb and decisive 53-ball 107. As much as Banton and Salt peppered the stands thereafter, it was a standard England could not match.