You can now listen to Antigua News articles!
by Mick the Ram
England bounced back from the crushing defeat they suffered in the first meeting of the three-match series against West Indies, to comfortably win the second one-day international and set up a decider at the weekend.
For Sam Curran in particular, it was an important result after his nightmare performance three days before, when at the same Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, he had been unceremoniously dispatched repeatedly to the boundary – and often over it – in recording England’s most expensive ever men’s ODI figures of 0-98.
He showed great tenacity in not only stepping up again, but managing to put in a player-of-the-match performance, which helped reduce the West Indies to 23-4 and essentially putting them on the back foot, from which they never really recovered.
The eventual 6-wicket victory means that the sides move on to Barbados on Saturday 9 December, for the third and final fixture, with everything to play for.
Morale boost in first clash
The West Indies were naturally lifted by the thrilling way in which they chased down their record score on the same ground just three days before; a win made possible in the main by a magnificent unbeaten century by skipper, Shai Hope.
That victory in Game One had seen the side overhaul England’s score of 325, which was the nation’s second-best ever run chase in ODI history – only the 331 they achieved against Ireland in 2019, can better it.
Important toss to win
The captain and his troops would have been looking to follow that up and clinch a confidence-boosting series win, but losing the toss and being asked to bat first, probably was not in his chosen script.
Both sides were unchanged, and opposition skipper Jos Buttler spoke of using the significant breeze which was in evidence and executing their skills better, and he was delighted to get the chance to bowl first. However, even he could not of foreseen the dramatic collapse of the top order, which more or less meant the game was England’s to lose, with less than 30 minutes played.
The later start and likely evening dew later in the day meant bowling second could have a few issues, but that shouldn’t have affected the way a side batted and finding themselves 23-4 after just 7 overs, represented a disastrous start for the home team.
Curran’s shows some class
Left hander Alick Athanaze looked very impressive in the first game, but he was first out in the fourth over, caught behind after a review and he was quickly followed by Keacy Carty, who played a loose drive at Curran and was snapped up at slip.
It was the first of three wickets for Curran on a pitch that was showing some pace and bounce and the bowler who had looked completely out of ideas just three days previous, was now finding some swing and movement and looking almost unplayable.
He quickly accounted for Brandon King and Shimron Hetmyer, and captain Hope realised at 41-4 after ten overs that it needed a steadying hand if his side were to build a platform and reach a total they could potentially defend.
In company with Sherfane Rutherford, who suppressed his natural attacking instinct, the two men at the crease got the scoreboard moving and took the total past 100 in the 20th over.
Hope completed another excellent half-century and at the halfway stage, 119-4 was a very good recovery. Rutherford past fifty himself and with just over 20 overs to go and the 150 just coming up, it looked like a decent score was attainable.
Livingstone removes the danger
However, the introduction of Liam Livingstone into the attack changed things dramatically. He first of all ended the fifth wicket partnership of 129, having Rutherford caught when driving carelessly, and followed that up by bowling Yannic Carriah, before then getting the prized wicket of Shai Hope.
He had taken 3 wickets in 3 overs and the score had gone from 152-4 to 163-7. With still 16 overs available, the West Indies should have set their stall to bat out their allocation, but instead they blazed away with the inevitable result of being all out, scratching their way to 202, with still ten overs remaining.
Figures of 3-33 from Curran, and 3-39 from Livingstone had done most of the damage, but another excellent spell of 2-40 from teenager Rehan Ahmed also played a part.
Openers not hanging about
With just four-an-over required, England might have been forgiven for taking it steady, but that is not in the make-up of this particular English side, and openers Phil Salt and Will Jacks had 50 on the board, before 6 overs were complete.
Even though Salt and Zak Crawly both fell to poor shots, Jacks was looking well set. He raced past his own half-century, off just 43 balls, and would have been disappointed to get out for 73, LBW to Rutherford’s medium pace.
Captain responds to pressure
With Ben Ducket also falling cheaply, there may have been some hopes raised in the West Indies camp, especially as it was Buttler who came out to join Harry Brook. The England captain was in very poor form and had gone 14 games without a score of 50.
Nevertheless, with only 86 needed and still 30 overs to get them, this was probably the scenario he had been waiting for – and so it proved. After a cautious start, he suddenly launched himself into Carriah’s bowling, clearing the ropes twice in an over and that was more or less it as far as the contest went.
Buttler passed 5,000 ODI runs for his country during his innings which ended with him not out 58, after Brook swept the boundary to seal an easy win by six wickets, with 17 overs to spare.
On to Barbados for the decider
All eyes turn to Barbados now, with the momentum swinging back towards England, but as has been proved in both of the games in Antigua, each of these teams have match-winners in their ranks, so the series is up for grabs.