Gros Islet, St. Lucia: Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid guided a depleted England side to a four-wicket victory over the West Indies on Tuesday in the first Twenty20.
England excused four of their first-choice side after the drawn ODI series — Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali — but Bairstow plugged a big gap in the batting line-up with a career-best 68 from 40 balls.
Opening for the first time in 28 matches he broke the back of a 161-run target, which owed much to Rashid’s miserly return of 1-15. Tom Curran walked away with four wickets as the West Indies posted 160-8 but it was Rashid’s precise stint which did most to stall the home side.
Joe Denly and Sam Billings both fell with the end line in sight but Curran reappeared to hit the winning boundary with seven balls remaining.
Chris Gayle, the Man-of-the-Series in the ODIs, fell to Chris Jordan’s wide yorker which he could only squeeze to short third man. Shimron Hetmyer also failed to leave his mark on proceedings, chipping in with 14 before pumping a Curran full toss straight to mid-on.
Darren Bravo and Nicholas Pooran helped claw back some of the lost ground, as the fourth-wicket pair added 64 in 51 balls but were parted in style by the returning Jordan.
The reply began in a flurry of activity as Sheldon Cottrell’s opening over contained 17 runs, a dropped catch and finally the wicket of Alex Hales.
Joe Root’s hopes of sharpening his T20 skills lasted exactly two balls, lbw to Cottrell attempting to open up the leg-side, but Bairstow was unaffected.
He launched himself into a 13-ball sequence containing five boundaries and one six, driving England to 62 for two in the power play, well ahead of the West Indies benchmark.
Bairstow nicked Carlos Brathwaite on 34 but a fingertip catch skimmed off Hope’s gloves and brought him four more. Brathwaite did manage to see off skipper Eoin Morgan but Bairstow was dropped again by Cottrell shortly after reaching a 27-ball 50 with his second six.
By the time he was held at wide long-on, he had left a target of 58 in 50 balls.
Billings and Denly, both of whom are still seeking to find their place in the England set-up, chalked off all but eight of the required runs in calm fashion before nerves struck.
Holder persuaded Denly to hole out with 14 balls remaining then Billings had a let-off next ball, Oshane Thomas just failing to hang to a mis-cued pull at fine leg.
Reprieved, Billings then swiped at a Cottrell cutter that knocked back his stumps. Four byes over Hope’s head eased the growing tension allowing Curran to slog the winning runs.