England will look to wrap up a whitewash against the West Indies in the final ODI of the three-match series in Bridgetown on Thursday.
After winning convincingly in the first ODI, Eoin Morgan’s men experienced a much more difficult encounter in Antigua on Sunday. There were significant signs of improvement in the bowling department, bowling the West Indies out for just 225. The returning Steven Finn made early inroads and the pressure was continued by accurate, tight bowling from Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett and Moeen Ali, in particular. The home side perhaps showed a lack of intent with the bat but this was a display in the field that England fans could take plenty of heart from, considering the punishment that was been dished out to them by the Indian batsmen in January.
The chase should have been a forgone conclusion, and after Jason Roy and Joe Root steered England to 87-1, it seemed as if it would be just that. However, Roy’s cheap dismissal sparked a collapse of 5-37 left England in real trouble. The spin duo of Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo caused all kinds of problems and England needed a partnership to support Joe Root to steady the ship. Root found a willing ally in Chris Woakes, who batted sensibly and to the match situation to guide England home in a terrific 102-run partnership.
If anything, it once again proved how valuable England’s batting depth is to their chances of success. Explosive the top six may be but it is the likes of Woakes, among others down the order, that have proven to be England’s saving grace since their resurgence in one-day cricket. It is a real strength that this side possess and it could prove pivotal to their hopes in the upcoming Champions Trophy. It certainly proved useful in last year’s route to the World T20 final.
England now have a chance to seal the series 3-0 and enter the busy summer period full of confidence. Without seeing the high scores on display in India, England have shown another side to their game in being able to grind out totals on slow, low pitches. Though with one match to go and the series already decided, we may yet see the kind of enterprising freedom that has made them such a dangerous prospect in this format.
So often the catalyst behind England’s explosive batting performances in recent times, Buttler is currently going through one of his most difficult periods of form to date. His last five ODI scores since the start of the series in India read 31, 10, 11, 14 and 0. And while it is the bowling attack that has been the problem during that period, England have missed Buttler’s explosive onslaughts, especially during the back end of an innings.
Perhaps the 26-year-old is confused by his role in the side. Buttler has been alternated with Ben Stokes in the middle-order and has looked in limbo in terms of when to attack. England will hope that he returns to some much-needed form and if he does, expect fireworks.
Since returning from injury, Finn has offered room for encouragement. He went wicketless in the first ODI, despite bowling with admirable control and hostility. The big fast bowler was rewarded on Sunday, however, picking up the key scalp of Evan Lewis before also dismissing Kieran Powell – both with back of a length deliveries.
England have missed Finn’s pace and aggression with the ball up front, and his return takes the pressure off Chris Woakes to deliver early breakthroughs, as he did in India. Another impressive performance in Bridgetown will underline Finn’s importance to an England bowling attack which has received plenty of punishment in recent months.
England expect to remain unchanged after Sunday’s victory. The possibility of bringing in Jonny Bairstow, either at the top or in the middle order, could be looked at. Though it is likely that Sam Billings will continue to partner Jason Roy.
- Jason Roy
- Sam Billings
- Joe Root
- Eoin Morgan (c)
- Jos Buttler (wk)
- Ben Stokes
- Moeen Ali
- Chris Woakes
- Adil Rashid
- Liam Plunkett
- Steven Finn