ICC World Twenty20 champions England suffered a second successive setback as they began their Super Eight campaign with a 15-run defeat against the West Indies.
Eoin Morgan (71no) and Alex Hales (68) did their best to rescue an unlikely victory, in pursuit of 179-5. But in the end, with 23 required off Marlon Samuels’s final over, England had left themselves with just too much to do.
England wrote off their heaviest loss, and lowest total, in this sprint format against India in Colombo on Sunday as a blip.
Last night, there was a much better performance but more disappointment too after they fell short of a tough but achievable target with 164-4 on a decent pitch.
Johnson Charles (84) and Chris Gayle (58) both clubbed half-centuries, after the West Indies won the toss; then England’s reply suffered a telling initial stumble before opener Hales and Morgan kept them in the contest with a century stand and seven sixes between them.
England’s bowlers already knew all about Gayle, but might have been a little more surprised by his opening partner Charles.
After a stand of 103, Gayle was first to go. But 23-year-old St Lucian Charles, without a century in any form of professional cricket, stayed the course to record his maiden Twenty20 international 50.
England, by contrast, began their reply by losing two wickets for no runs in the first three balls to Ravi Rampaul – and even though Hales responded with 50, containing five fours and two sixes, and Morgan reached his half-century in a tournament joint-record 25 balls, it was never going to be quite enough.
Charles had earlier hit 10 fours and three sixes, before mistiming another attempted big hit to long-on off Jade Dernbach.
Gayle predictably first signalled his intent with three fours in one over from Dernbach.
The powerplay yielded a near par 47, but without loss, and that proved to be a platform for their openers to up the ante.
Gayle had one minor moment of fortune on 29 when a wrong-footed Morgan, perhaps losing the ball in the bright floodlights, found himself over-committed as the big left-hander pulled Samit Patel high to the boundary.
The Irishman might have had a chance of holding an important catch, had he been able to retreat to the fence, but instead saw the first of three sixes in the over sail over his head.
Those sixes and six fours took Gayle past 50 in only 29 balls, and the West Indies were in three figures in the 11th over.
England should have had a much-needed breakthrough but Steven Finn put down Charles on 39 off Graeme Swann at long-off.
England would doubtless have swapped that for what happened off the next ball, Finn holding his nerve this time to cling on at long-on and see the back of Gayle.
England celebrated appropriately, and soon had No 3 Samuels cheaply too, caught at point by Morgan as Stuart Broad interrupted the batting flow with a wicket-maiden.
Charles was still at large, but England recalled Finn early to test Kieron Pollard with pace, a move that worked instantly as the big hitter skied a catch to the cover boundary from the first ball of the over to go for just a single.
The openers apart, only Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell managed double-figures – and their last-over assault on Dernbach helped to produce 15 runs, to make the West Indies marginal favourites at the interval.
Three balls after it, their position had strengthened somewhat.
Rampaul’s double-wicket maiden saw Craig Kieswetter lob a short ball to cover for a second-ball duck, and Luke Wright edge some extra bounce to slip to put the seamer on a hat-trick.
Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow, promoted ahead of Morgan, survived that early crisis.
Hales escaped a ‘double-play’ on 31 – when he should have been stumped off Samuel Badree, and then run out from short fine-leg as he stole a bye.
Bairstow’s innings was a particular struggle, ending when he finally hit one well enough down the ground off Gayle but was very well-caught by Pollard running round from long-on.
Hales and Morgan joined forces with little realistic hope of a successful chase but had enough firepower to make the West Indies sweat right to the end.
England v West Indies
Pallekele: West Indies beat England by 15 runs
J Charles c Bairstow b Dernbach 84
C H Gayle c Finn b Swann 58
M N Samuels c Morgan b Broad 2
K A Pollard c L J Wright b Finn 1
D J Bravo not out 11
D J G Sammy b Broad 4
A D Russell not out 10
Extras b1 lb7 w1 9
Total 5 wkts (20 overs) 179
Fall: 1-103 2-118 3-128 4-154 5-158
Did Not Bat: D Ramdin, S P Narine, R Rampaul, S Badree.
Bowling: Finn 4 0 26 1, Dernbach 4 0 38 1, Broad 4 1 26 2, Swann 4 0 36 1, S R Patel 3 0 34 0, L J Wright 1 0 11 0.
C Kieswetter c Pollard b Rampaul 0
A D Hales st Ramdin b Samuels 68
L J Wright c Gayle b Rampaul 0
J M Bairstow c Pollard b Gayle 18
E J G Morgan not out 71
J C Buttler not out 1
Extras b1 lb1 w4 6
Total 4 wkts (20 overs) 164
Fall: 1-0 2-0 3-55 4-162
Did Not Bat: S R Patel, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling: Rampaul 4 1 37 2, Badree 4 0 20 0, Narine 4 0 33 0, Sammy 1 0 13 0, Gayle 4 0 27 1, Samuels 3 0 32 1.
Sri Lanka won the opening match of the Super Eights in dramatic fashion after a ‘super over’ was required to settle the match with New Zealand in Pallekele.
Batting first in the extra over, Sri Lanka made 13 without managing to hit a boundary off Tim Southee, who bowled two costly wides.
That left New Zealand needing to score 14 to claim victory but they fell well short. The sides had tied on 174 from their 20 overs.