Openers provide base for West Indies - 09-27-2012, 01:00 PM
Johnson Charles exploded after a slow start to register his first international fifty © AFP
An opening partnership of 103 in 11 overs provided the West Indies with the foundations for a challenging total in their Super Eights match against England in Pallekele. Half-centuries for Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles gave West Indies the perfect start and, though they experienced a couple of hiccups towards the end, a total of 179 for 5 will take some getting, even on a good batting pitch.
If England are to overhaul their target, they will have to do so against an attack that includes several spin options. Not only did West Indies, with a view to England's struggles against spin bowling, select the legspin of Samuel Badree in place of the pace of Fidel Edwards, but they also have the 'mystery' spin of Sunil Narine and the part-time offbreaks of Marlon Samuels and Gayle to utilise.
On the same pitch that was used for the game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand earlier in the day the ball was already turning a surprising amount, so England's chase is likely to prove a testing proposition. England have never chased more than 173 to win a T20I.
England had made no secret of their desire to take early wickets in this game but, having lost the toss, they soon found themselves chasing the ball all over the ground. If the class and power of Gayle was hardly surprising, the increasingly fluency of Charles was less expected. But, after an uncertain start, the 23-year-old from St Lucia, justified his place in the side with his maiden international half-century and the highest score he has made in any form of professional cricket.
While Steven Finn, bowling with sharp pace, produced a tight first over with Charles' only boundary coming when he top-edged an attempted pull over slip, Gayle was soon into his stride. Having patted back his first two deliveries from Jade Dernbach, he then crashed three fours from the rest of the over: two pulls and a fierce drive.
Gayle dealt with the pace of Finn comfortably, giving himself room to cut a short ball over point, and greeted the introduction of Stuart Broad, also bowling at a sharp pace and with good control, with a thick-edged four over third man and then a flick over midwicket. After the six Powerplay overs, West Indies were 47 without loss.
But it was Samit Patel's introduction into the attack in the eighth over that marked a sharp acceleration from West Indies. Patel's third delivery, something of a long-hop, was pulled over mid-on, the fifth was slog-swept over square leg and the final delivery, a quicker ball, was driven over mid-on as Gayle thrashed three sixes from the over.
Johnson followed suit in the following over from Graeme Swann. Having seized on to a poor ball down the leg side with a sweep for four, he followed it with two sixes over the long-on boundary to complete a period of five sixes in 10 balls for West Indies.
Gayle reached his 50 in just 29 deliveries and brought up the 100 stand from 63 balls with another six driven over extra cover. So when Finn, running in from long-off, put down a simple chance offered by Charles on 39 off Swann, it seemed there would be no respite for England. But it turned out to be a moment of fortune for England. The next delivery, Gayle mistimed a thump over long-on and, this time, Finn made no mistake with the catch.
Luke Wright was introduced into the attack in the 12th over, but by now Charles was in fine form. Having stepped back to crash one four through extra cover, he then smacked another back over Wright's head. Charles reached his half-century from 36 balls.
Broad clawed back a little control with a wicket maiden in the 14th over when he had Samuels taken at point as he attempted to slash over the off side, but Charles was back on strike for the next over and skipped down the wicket to drive Patel for another six.
Kieron Pollard, slogging to point, did not last long, but Charles, by now unrecognisable from the hesitant batsman that had started the innings, took Finn for successive boundaries on either side of the wicket and then clipped Dernbach for one four before driving him for another over long-off. Clearly showing the effects of weariness, however, he then drove a full toss to mid-on to depart 16 short of a century.
The wicket in the 18th over slowed West Indies' progress and with Broad producing a fine penultimate over - he bowled Darren Sammy with a slower ball delivered out of the back of his hand and only conceded 10 due to some fortuitous slices from Andre Russell - England might have felt they were back in the match.
But with Dernbach conceding 15, including three boundaries, from the last over, West Indies reached the halfway stage of the game with the momentum and a score perhaps 15 over par.
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