Joe Root and Chris Woakes’s unbroken century stand ensured England overcame another alarming collapse against spin in their series-clinching four-wicket victory over West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Root (90no) and Jason Roy (52) appeared to have put England on course for a comfortable chase on a used pitch in this second one-day international, after Liam Plunkett (3-32) did most damage as West Indies were bowled out for 225 in 47.5 overs despite Jason Mohammed’s half-century.
But the tourists, so vulnerable against spin across the formats in the sub-continent for much of this winter, found Ashley Nurse (3-34) and Devendra Bishoo a familiar stumbling block as they faltered from 87-1 to 124-6 – with five of the top seven making single-figures.
Root and Woakes (68no) then played with great skill and nerve, the former with his first international half-century at only his second attempt since being named England’s new Test captain last month.
He sensibly allowed Woakes to dominate the scoring, with just his second List A 50, as they responded at crisis point to see their team to an unassailable 2-0 lead with 10 balls to spare.
Root’s eventual share brought him just three fours from 127 balls, while his doughty partner hit five fours and two sixes from 83 in their partnership of 102, as Windies found themselves a bowler short with Shannon Gabriel off the pitch following only three new-ball overs because of a side strain.
England’s chase began frenetically, Sam Billings gone for a golden duck after edging a brute of a ball from Gabriel which was parried by second slip to first.
Roy had early fortune, especially when surviving a huge appeal and DRS process for caught-behind off Jason Holder on one.
Root also edged an attempted drive at Gabriel just short of slip from the third ball he faced, but he and Roy were then largely untroubled in a second-wicket stand of 86 until the opener holed out at long-on off Nurse in the 15th over.
Four further wickets then fell for the addition of only 16 runs.
Eoin Morgan was lbw to Nurse’s arm ball; Ben Stokes completed his mediocre day by edging an attempted cut at Bishoo behind for just a single, and the out-of-form Jos Buttler played the same shot with less conviction to be caught by the juggling wicketkeeper off the leg-spinner for a duck.
Nurse then turned one past Moeen Ali’s backward-defence to leave the onus on Root – and Woakes, who had two moments of fortune on 42 and 58 when he was dropped at long-on and mid-off. West Indies’ innings was notable for Steven Finn’s achievement of 100 ODI career wickets, the third-fastest Englishman to reach the landmark – behind Darren Gough and Stuart Broad – nipping out Evin Lewis and Kieran Powell after Holder won the toss. There was uneven bounce from the outset, Finn surprising the two left-handers for catches which looped to cover and then back at the bowler. Shai Hope went after a cut in Stokes’s second over, but got an under-edge behind on a wide delivery.
Opener Kraigg Brathwaite was badly-dropped on 41 at midwicket by Stokes – Finn robbed of wicket 101 and England’s £1.7million man enduring a brief injury scare, jarring a finger as he put the chance down.
Stokes was back bowling again within five overs – with Brathwaite already gone after charging Moeen and missing the turn to go stumped and end the fourth-wicket stand of 72.
Mohammed reached his second ODI half-century, following up his first here two days ago but did not add another run before chipping an unmissable catch to mid-on off Plunkett straight after drinks.
Plunkett did the trick again, with another variation slower delivery, when Jonathan Carter skied a second catch to the same fielder Adil Rashid – this time at mid-off. Power-hitters Holder and Carlos Brathwaite joined forces with only three runs between them, and precious little licence to attack the last 10 overs on an already shaky 176-6.
Rashid held his third successive catch, and easily the most difficult, a swirling caught-and-bowled skier to see off Holder.
Then Brathwaite fell to a ferried catch on the long-on boundary by Roy and Billings, and the innings ended in anti-climax as the last three wickets fell for six runs.
Contrary to the expectations of many, however, it still proved a major test for England.
Liam Livingstone’s brilliant form with the bat again proved in vain as Sri Lanka A thrashed England Lions in Dambulla to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match one-day series.
Lancashire batsman Livingstone defied severe cramp in both calves to continue his hugely prolific tour with 94 to provide the backbone of the Lions’ 217 all out.