England can secure a solitary piece of silverware from a long tour of West Indies with victory in this match. A comfortable win in the first match – they cantered to the target on the back of Jonny Bairstow’s quick-fire 68 after their bowlers restricted West Indies to 160 for 8 to win by four wickets – suggests they will.
But, as we have seen throughout this tour, West Indies have an uncanny ability to spring surprises, as evidenced by their resounding victories in the opening two Tests and taking the contest to England in the tied ODI series.
The all-round nature of West Indies’ failings in the first T20I remain a concern. When Chris Gayle fell cheaply for the first time since returning to the fold for the limited-overs segment of the tour, Nicholas Pooran stepped into the void with an eye-catching half-century. However, his 57 fell short of making the difference, especially with Darren Bravo their only other batsman to pass 20. Then, with Bairstow in the zone, their bowlers could not make inroads and, worse still, gifted him some boundary bait.
Particularly damaging, though, was West Indies’ inability to take their chances in the field. As has been an ugly theme to emerge on this tour, dropped catches and sloppy fielding proved costly. Bairstow was put down twice on his way to England’s top score, while dropped sitters off opener Alex Hales and Sam Billings were less expensive, only because both were dismissed shortly after.
Holding a couple of those catches, or having another batsman stick around, could turn the match – something both sides are acutely aware of heading into the second installment of this three-match encounter.
West Indies: LLWLL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
David Willey has had limited opportunities to showcase himself on this tour, bowling just two overs in the first T20. He conceded 20 runs in that time, but managed to contain Gayle well with the new ball.
Tom Curran, Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid bowled superbly in the series opener and it will be interesting to see how they are deployed this time around as England look to refine their thinking as they work towards their 15-man World Cup squad, due to be named next month. This is of course a different format but no doubt useful in gauging form with bowling spots up for grabs while the batting line-up is all but settled.
Willey faces stiff competition from Mark Wood (who was rested for the first game after a hefty workload in the third Test and the one-dayers) Chris Woakes and possibly Jofra Archer for the new-ball role – although he’s none too chuffed at that prospect. But, just as Wood burst from the blocks after biding his time in the first two Tests to claim a match-turning five-for in the third, Willey has an opportunity to press his claims if he plays in St Kitts.
Pooran will surely play for West Indies, having opened instead of John Campbell in the first match and made an impressive 58 off 37 balls. Fabian Allen is also expected to hold his place ahead of Devendra Bishoo.
Obed McCoy has been called up to replace Andre Russell, who has failed to take the field since joining West Indies’ squad before the last two ODIs when a long-standing knee problem flared up. England had a look at McCoy last month when he turned out for the University of West Indies Vice Chancellor’s XI in their limited-overs warm-up in Barbados but the 22-year-old left-arm fast bowler may have to wait for his T20I debut, with West Indies expected to name an unchanged side.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Nicholas Pooran, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Jason Holder (capt), 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas
England rested Mark Wood in St Lucia, so there’s a decision to be taken about whether to give him another gallop or keep him in cotton wool for the summer. Meanwhile, Joe Root’s quest for T20I runs continues. He was out for a duck in the first game and has not reached double figures since June last year. In fact, it has been nearly three years since he scored a half-century in the format, hitting 54 in the World T20 final against West Indies in Kolkata in April 2016, although he has made it into the 40s twice in his nine innings since. He will probably play, although there’s a strong case to rest him.
England: (probable) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Joe Denly, 6 Sam Billings, 7 David Willey, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Adil Rashid
Pitch and conditions
Traditionally, the Basseterre pitch has not been as good as some of the belters seen on this tour. There is a very short straight boundary, however, which could be inviting to the heavy hitters. In fact, it was at this very ground that Herschelle Gibbs plundered six sixes off one Dan van Bunge over as South Africa romped to a 221-run win over Netherlands in the 2007 World Cup. The toss could prove crucial with a bowl-first call preferred on a pitch that could dry out to become good for batting later. Mild and mostly sunny conditions are forecast, but the resident winds could be a factor.
Stats and Trivia
West Indies have never lost a T20I at Basseterre, beating Bangladesh twice and Afghanistan three times, with another match, against Bangladesh, washed out in 2014. This will be England’s first T20I appearance at the venue, having only played warm-ups at the ground on their past two tours.
England’s four-wicket win in the first match of this series was just their fifth in T20Is against West Indies in 16 matches.
“We were probably 20 runs short in the first game. We created opportunities on the bowling front but we could not accept them in the field. On reflection we know we are capable of playing better than that.” Vasbert Drakes, the West Indies bowling coach, sums up his side’s woes..
“It’s a 63-metre boundary. It’s going to be a challenge but it is the same for both sides and the breeze knocks a good 10, 15, 20 metres off one side as well. As a bowler, you have to be smart and try to get them to hit to the long side if there is one or at least into the wind. It could come down to who bowls as smartly as they can.” David Willey on a the unique challenge for the bowlers presented by the Basseterre ground.