FOR A relatively small man, Adil Rashid has a habit of collecting some pretty big scalps.
Since the start of 2018, the Yorkshire leg-spinner, who stands 5ft 8ins, has dismissed Australia’s Steve Smith twice and Aaron Finch three times.
He has also twice removed Virat Kohli, the world’s best batsman, including with the so-called “ball of the century” that bamboozled the India captain last summer at Emerald Headingley.
As such, the challenge of taking down Chris Gayle, a big man in every sense, was unlikely to have fazed the Bradford-born player, who last Sunday celebrated his 31st birthday.
Sure enough, in the second one-day international in Barbados, where England were last night chasing the West Indies’ score of 289-6, Rashid added the sizeable scalp of the self-styled “Universe Boss” to a burgeoning tally of stellar big names.
Rashid, who was playing his 80th ODI, has been a huge part of England’s white-ball resurgence, one that has made them favourites to lift the World Cup.Chris Waters
Prior to this five-match series, Rashid had talked specifically about the challenge of bowling to Gayle, who took England to the tune of 135 in the first ODI at the same ground last Wednesday.
“You have to believe in yourself, you’ve got to have confidence,” he said.
“You have to go out and stick to your strengths and be confident that you can get him out.
“He’s only human. We’re all human and make mistakes. So it only takes one ball for him to make a mistake and get out.”
It was to the second ball of Rashid’s second over, the 21st of the innings, that Gayle made a mistake that brought his downfall.
Having advanced to 50 from 62 balls, an innings that included four sixes to go with the 12 that he struck on Wednesday, Gayle eyed up his favoured leg-side boundary as Rashid threw up a leg-break outside off stump.
It was a beautiful ball, floating above the left-hander’s eye-line, drifting away slightly and then spinning back to hit off stump. It was also, given Gayle’s importance to West Indies, a pivotal moment in the context of the match, the hosts slipping to 98-2 after Eoin Morgan had sent them in.
Strangely, on a pitch offering more spin than the one on Wednesday, Morgan did not give Rashid his full 10-over allocation. He finished with 1-28 from six overs having taken 3-74 from nine in the opening encounter.
Rashid, who was playing his 80th ODI, has been a huge part of England’s white-ball resurgence, one that has made them favourites to lift the World Cup.
His Test situation is not quite so favourable; he was dropped after returning match figures of 0-117 in the opening Test in Barbados last month.
Rashid returned to England for the birth of his second child before flying back to the Caribbean for the one-day matches, his hopes of featuring in the Ashes this summer now hanging by a thread.
One man who who does have a good chance of featuring in that series is Durham’s Mark Wood, the pick of the bowlers for England yesterday.
So impressive in the third and final Test in St Lucia recently, where he clocked up speeds of 95mph, Wood returned 1-38 from 10 overs - parsimony personified.
England’s bowling, however, remains a work in progress; it is not yet guaranteed World Cup-winning material in its own right. The concession of 13 wides among 25 extras at Kensington Oval was too many, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes the biggest culprits with four wides apiece, Stokes also delivering two no-balls.
For West Indies, it was not Gayle who shone brightest with the bat but Shimron Hetmyer, the 22-year-old Guyanese left-hander. Hetmyer top-scored with 104 not out from 83 balls with seven fours and four sixes, the fastest ODI hundred by a West Indian against England (reached from 82 deliveries) and his fourth century in just 22 career ODI appearances.
England were especially impressive in the field, not least when Rashid ran out Darren Bravo with a direct hit after Hetmyer steered a ball from Tom Curran – in for Chris Woakes – to short third-man.
With Woakes not long returned from a knee injury, England felt that two games in three days might put unnecessary pressure on that recovery.
After chasing 361 to beat West Indies on Wednesday, their highest successful ODI pursuit, England lost both openers cheaply – including Jonny Bairstow for a golden duck – to slip to 10-2, Sheldon Cottrell, the successful bowler, celebrating by performing military-style salutes.
Joe Root hit 36 before Eoin Morgan and Stokes combined in a fourth-wicket stand of 99, Morgan – dropped twice – striking 70 before lofting Cottrell to deep mid-wicket.
Stokes also passed fifty but England fell short of their target, collapsing all out for 263 to lose by 26 runs.