In a tensed encounter at Barbados West Indies scripted a victory to level the series and the bowlers deserve a lot of credit…..
When the “Universal Boss” Chris Gayle smashed a hundred at Bridgetown Barbados in first ODI, the cricketing world went crazy. Gayle is one of the most favourite cricketers among the young generation like AB de Villiers. So, a Gayle-in-full-flow in West Indies colours would trigger a festive mood among the neutrals. West Indies posted 360 for 8 in 50 overs, but Joe Root and Jason Roy’s eye-catching stroke-play overshadowed Gayle’s ton. England took the lead after completing highest successful One-day International (ODI) chase to win the series opener against West Indies in Barbados.
No matter how big a total you post, if the bowlers don’t deliver, even something around 400 won’t be safe in this era of heavy bats and power-hitting. In the end, the first ODI turned into a damp squib and England showed everyone why they are the ultimate hot favourites in the upcoming ICC World Cup. Sadly, the much-celebrated and swashbuckling ton of Gayle would be regarded as a hundred for a losing cause. In the history of cricket, so many wonderful tons have been forgotten because they failed to produce a result. Someone like Tamim Iqbal would realise the pain of Gayle.
But Shimron Hetmyer did not have to go the Gayle way. With his daring-attitude and ability to essay murderous strokes, Hetmyer is already regarded as one of the stars of future. His aggressive batting was evident in first ODI as well. But a 15-ball 20 only just helped to swell the total and entertain. What West Indies wished more from Hetmyer is a prolonged stay at the crease, and it was fulfilled in second ODI on the same ground.
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Gayle set the tempo, but West Indies middle-order struggled to convert the starts as soon as Gayle was dismissed. The situation demanded deft stroke-play and patience to stay at the crease. With Hetmyer around the corner, one could not be much optimistic. But Hetmyer showed he can bat according to the demand of situation and he had to step up as West Indies excluded a batsman – Nicolas Pooran – to strengthen their bowling attack by including Sheldon Cottrell – a bowler who could swing at a decent pace and possesses the temperament to bowl at the death.
At first, Hetmyer played with composure – his 76-run stand with Darren Bravo for the fourth wicket was nothing but salvaging deeds. And when Bravo, Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite fell quickly, he switched to fifth gear and unleashed the attacking instincts. To challenge England a team at least needs something around 300 runs and with 237 for 6 and five overs to; a batsman needs to accelerate as much as possible. Hetmyer went all guns blazing – flashy strokes showed up and he did not bother to bring up his ton via a boundary while batting on 98 with just two balls remaining in West Indies innings.
It was very well-organised innings, which could have faced the fate of Gayle’s ton had West Indies bowlers not clawed back into the match.
Cottrell sent Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow packing with a crisp Military salute, a reference to his time as a private in Jamaican Defence Force. Oshane Thomas cut short the stay of Joe Root, but this England side would not bother much losing such big guns as their depth in batting is too good.
England were cruising when Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes were at the crease. To score 62 off 61 balls was never going to be a tough task for this English batting lineup until and unless someone steps up to set jitters in batting lineup. Who else but West Indian captain Holder stepped up. He dismissed Stokes, flummoxed Jos Buttler with a slower ball and then trapped Tom Curran lbw first ball. 3 wickets fell for 5 runs and from nowhere West Indies came back into the game.
Cottrell in his second spell removed Morgan, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid – England lost their way. Cottrell bagged a 5-wicket haul while West Indies held their nerves to script a series-levelling win.
The inclusion of an extra bowler reaped a rich harvest for West Indies and in any form of the game, the value of bowlers is worth as a gold. The Caribbean could not defend 360 but hung on to a cliffhanger in the second encounter only because of some superb bowling display. Again, Hetmyer’s ton would be regarded as a match-winning one as because West Indies bowling was too good.