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“While the England batsmen won them the two games in the series, it was Windies’ bowlers who made a mark when the hosts won”

There’s an old adage, ‘Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments.’ We have time and again heard this and are most likely to continue hearing this. In the modern era, bat dominates ball, especially in white-ball cricket. The bats have been bigger, the pitches are flatter and the boundaries are not too big either. And Windies will acknowledge the aforementioned adage, especially after the five-match ODI series against England.

In six innings that were completed in this five-match ODI series, a mammoth 2083 runs were scored. This was the tally before the start of the fifth ODI. The flat pitches and some mind-boggling batting made a mockery of the bowling from both sides. The West Indian bowlers had fared far worse than their counterparts. They had allowed England to chase down 361 with ease in the first game before they conceded in excess of 400 in the fourth ODI.

The England batsmen were all over the bowlers in the fourth ODI. But the Windies bowlers came storming back just like they did after the drubbing in the first game. On a surface that had some extra zip and bounce, Windies exploited that beautifully and had the England batsmen in a lot of strife, eventually knocking them over for a mere 113. For the second consecutive time in the series, the men from the Caribbean showed their ability to bounce back and learn from their mistakes.

Also read: The bowlers shine, West Indies win

In the first ODI, they were a bowler short and looked out of sorts when things didn’t go their way. They rectified that mistake in the second ODI as they included Sheldon Cottrell and the move paid rich dividends. The left-arm pacer picked up a five-wicket haul as the hosts defended 289 against one of the strongest batting line-ups in the world. They had been smashed around even in the fourth ODI where the Windies bowlers conceded 418. It seemed as if there was no real plan as England carted 154 runs in the last 10 overs. The bowlers, barring the odd short ball and an odd slower ball here and there, kept searching for the yorker and kept missing it.

There was no change in plan despite being taken for plenty of runs. There was heavy criticism but Chris Gayle’s whirlwind knock of 162 almost helped the home side chase down 419. But the bowling was under the scanner again.

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Once again, they came storming back to silence the critics. In the fifth ODI, they changed their plan. They started bowling normally with the new ball and little bit of movement and some extra bounce had helped them get a couple of early wickets. Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root were back in the pavilion and Windies were on top. But Alex Hales and skipper Eoin Morgan were resurrecting the innings and had gone about at decent rate as well. But the Windies pacers changed it up a bit. They started using the extra bounce on offer to their advantage and one by one nipped out the England batsmen. Carlos Braithwaite came in and picked up a couple of key wickets while Oshane Thomas blew away the England middle and lower order as he picked up his maiden fifer in ODI cricket.

Remember, England bat pretty deep and barring Mark Wood, each of the other 10 players have scored first-class centuries. Hence, it was an outstanding performance from the Windies bowlers. The pitch did help but they also seemed pretty clear in their plans and backed it up with really good execution.

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In both games that the Windies have won, it’s been on the back of their bowling. England were on course to chase down 289 in the second game but a strong comeback by the bowlers helped Windies level the series. Even in the fifth ODI at St Lucia, the blowing blew away the England batting for a mere 113. Hence, Windies would’ve realised that their bowling needs to deliver.

In fact, since the end of the 2015 World Cup, Windies’ bowling has been one of the biggest reasons for their failures. In 62 games, the bowlers have taken 345 wickets which is the second least among Test-playing nations. Ireland are just below them but they’ve played far lesser games than West Indies. They average 42.01 and have a strike-rate of 45.00, both of which are the worst for any team that has played ODI cricket since the 2015 World Cup. Hence, the bowling has to stand up.

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While they have enough power in the batting department to put up big scores and chase down any sort of scores, it’s the bowling that will be under the scanner once again in the World Cup. The pitches will be flat and bat will dominate, but the bowlers need to find a way to limit the damage. They will need to find that extra zip and back up the batting efforts.

While the England batsmen won them the two games in the series, it was Windies’ bowlers who made a mark when the hosts won. Hence, the adage mentioned right at the top couldn’t be truer. Michael Vaughan thinks Windies will shock a few people in the upcoming World Cup. But for that to happen, it’s the bowling that needs to stand up and support the batting which wears an intimidating look. As seen in this series, when the bowlers fired, West Indies look a completely different side.

 

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