Topley’s superb return helps England survive ‘scary’ West Indies six barrage

<span>Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

On a night of wildly unexpected suddenly inflating late drama in Bridgetown England snatched a scarring, fraught, very narrow victory from the jaws of a morale-boosting, straightforward and emphatic victory to nevertheless level the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies at 1-1 with three to play.

Related: Brandon King leads West Indies romp after England’s batting out of hell

After its dizzying conclusion, when Akeal Hosein had sent the last five legal deliveries of the night – there was a wide in there somewhere – for four, four, six, six and once again six, the home side, having inflicted upon England a morale-sapping thrashing in Saturday night’s opener, had somehow found a way of inflicting upon them a morale-sapping success, secured by a one-run margin.

It had all seemed so straightforward. Just after the halfway point of their innings England, poised at a reasonable if not outstanding 64 for two, thrashed 24 runs off an over bowled by the spinner Fabian Allen in what at the time seemed a decisive acceleration. An hour and a half later West Indies stood at a similar point in their reply, already nine runs and two wickets worse off, as England tossed the ball to spinners of their own. Adil Rashid bowled a wicket maiden, Moeen Ali promptly took two wickets, and West Indies were 65 for seven. All available evidence dictated there could be no coming back.

And so it proved, but only just. Though what was to happen in the final overs was outlandishly improbable – in 14 previous T20 internationals Hosein had never hit a boundary and his highest score was six, here there were seven boundaries in his 16-ball 44 – it will reopen some not very old scars for an England side whose death bowling had been so exposed in their World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand last November. That they eventually emerged from this period with a victory of sorts still to savour was down to Reece Topley, making his first T20 international appearance for nearly six years, whose 19th over went for just eight, and the umpire Joel Wilson, who after Saqib Mahmood started the final set with a very wide wide gave the bowler the benefit of considerable doubt when he followed it with a less emphatically wide wide.

<span class="element-image__caption">Fabian Allen (right) celebrates the dismissal of England’s Tom Banto.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Randy Brooks/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Fabian Allen (right) celebrates the dismissal of England’s Tom Banto. Photograph: Randy Brooks/AFP/Getty Images

“I thought we scored over par, but with the power they have you’ve never won the game until it’s over,” said Moeen Ali. “Even though they were seven down for not many runs, they were never out of the game. The fact they bat all the way down to 10 makes them extremely dangerous. We felt we were going to cruise that game but to win by only one run is actually quite scary. Their batting lineup is quite scary.”

For all that England again lost the toss and were told to bat, the game that followed could hardly have been more different to the first match of the series. Among the most significant changes was the pitch, a difference of just a few metres but not only flatter and more reliable but also less central. Both teams were guilty at times of being unnecessarily preoccupied with attacking or defending the shorter boundary, as the number of wides suggested.

Though England did not exactly explode out of the blocks, with Saturday’s scars still fresh a little circumspection seemed appropriate. It took until the final over of the power play for West Indies to make a breakthrough, Fabian Allen dismissing both Tom Banton and James Vince. At the other end Jason Roy watched and learned, and it was he who was single-handedly responsible for massacring Allen’s final over shortly after drinks. Ten overs into England’s innings Roy had 17 off 23; six deliveries later he was on the verge of a half-century, a mark he failed to meet after slapping Romario Shepherd’s second delivery of the night straight to long-on.

Given the joyful ludicrousness of their run chase it would seem churlish for West Indies to emerge from the match nursing regrets, but they will also be aware that some of their fielding was poor. Most notably Moeen was twice the beneficiary of ghastly drops, and Liam Dawson would have been caught by Nicholas Pooran at deep backward square leg had the fielder not for some reason decided to run in from the rope and watch the ball sail over his head.

England’s 171 for eight appeared a more than decent total, all the more so when the first three overs of West Indies’ reply went for three, two and one while Topley trapped Brandon King, whose half-century made him the outstanding batter of the opening encounter, with the second ball of the innings before brilliantly running out Shai Hope in his next over.

When Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard and then Odean Smith fell shortly after the halfway stage of the West Indies innings another comprehensive defeat appeared likely. But that was before Shepherd and Hosein came together and suddenly it was raining sixes, England were getting completely soaked, and West Indies ended the evening brilliantly, thrillingly, and quite encouragingly beaten.

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