Wed, 17 Jul 2019

England quicks, Root century brush West Indies aside

ESPNCricInfo
15 Jun 2019, 04:42 GMT+10

As it happened

This was supposed to be a 350 meets 350 match. At least 300 versus 300. And, for those who dared hope, 400 from both teams. In the end, the combined total of both teams just about crossed 400, with England clinically dismantling West Indies at the Hampshire Bowl on Friday.

After three no-result matches in the last four days, it was a bit of a relief to have cricket interrupt the rain. Dark clouds did hover, but metaphorical ones, over the fitness of two key England players. England turned up with their A game, befitting their favourite status. But West Indies were reading from the T20 playbook. They could muster only 212, a total that England romped to in 33.1 overs, riding on Joe Root's third World Cup century.

WATCH (India only): Highlights of England's eight-wicket win over West Indies

England did it without two of their top four - opener Jason Roy and captain Eoin Morgan had limped off the field when West Indies were batting - making it an even more impressive display, though they will be sweating on the fitness of the two batsmen before their next game, against Afghanistan on June 18. Roy left in the eighth over with a tweaked hamstring while Morgan walked off in the 40th over with what he confirmed after the game was a back spasm.

That meant Root was opening the innings in ODIs for the first time, but if you hadn't been told that, or looked it up, you would have never known it. Root made gleeful use of the gaps in the field during the Powerplay, and on the West Indies bowlers' waywardness, matching Jonny Bairstow shot for shot in an opening stand that wiped out all hope for the visitors. He was particularly good square of the pitch, in front and behind. When West Indies tried the short-ball strategy, he swivelled back and found runs on the leg side. On the off side, his driving through cover was equally sublime.

Root started briskly, and stayed brisk. Bairstow, who might consider an innings of less than a run a ball slow, was also chugging along until he upper cut Shannon Gabriel straight to third man to end a stand of 95. Chris Woakes earned a somewhat surprising promotion to No. 3 - again forced by injuries and by England's desire to let Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler stick to their usual middle-order positions. Woakes showed the faith wasn't misplaced, constructing 40 like a top-order batsman, before a rush of blood meant he pulled Gabriel to deep square with victory only 14 runs away.

Root wasn't to be denied though, making his second century of the World Cup, emulating Kevin Pietersen as the only other England batsman to score two in an edition. Root's third century across World Cups topped the list for England batsmen. It capped a day on which he also took two wickets.

Root's strikes were important, but it was England's fast bowlers who set the match up. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood were quick and hostile, and Woakes' lines were even tighter. In the first 15 overs, England's bowlers bowled only three balls that weren't length or back of a length. Of those three, one was a yorker that left Evin Lewis splayed with his stumps disturbed.

The Hampshire Bowl is among England's bigger grounds, which meant merely standing and biffing was never going to be enough. That is where West Indies erred. Their T20-style approach has yielded dividends on flatter tracks and smaller grounds. With some juice in the pitch early and the square boundaries being much longer, that approach backfired.

West Indies needed to work the field and get singles and doubles, but they couldn't do that, and, as a result, despite finding the boundary semi-regularly, the run rate never galloped. Chris Gayle began in usual fashion - sedate at the start and then muscling the ball away powerfully - but both he and Andre Russell were caught at deep square leg trying to pull short balls. Coincidentally, both batsmen - the two most dangerous hitters in the West Indies line-up - had been dropped in that area, but neither could go on to make a big one. Their mis-hits would have cleared the fence elsewhere, but here, they resulted in catches.

Nicholas Pooran alone was impressive, deftly working the ball into the gaps and picking up runs in the manner that was most efficient on this ground. Shimron Hetmyer allied with Pooran in what looked like a promising stand after the top three had fallen, until he played a loose shot to give Root his first wicket. An seam-up delivery - a knuckle ball almost - accounted for Jason Holder to give Root his second wicket, to joyous celebrations.

It wasn't the only time England, or Root, celebrated on Friday.

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