Life after Kevin Pietersen – the Twenty20 version – could have started more sweetly for England, but only just.
Shorn of their best player and facing questions over whether they will be equipped to defend their ICC World T20 title in Sri Lanka later this year, they not only beat the West Indies by seven wickets, they did so on the strength of the highest international Twenty20 innings so far from an England player – and, what's more, by the one charged with replacing the irreplaceable.
The only regret was that Alex Hales, the young Nottinghamshire batsman earmarked for a recall here from the moment Pietersen announced his retirement from one-day international cricket, could not give the occasion the perfect finish.
Agonisingly, not only for him but for a home crowd willing him on, Hales was out for 99, bowled by a full delivery from Ravi Rampaul (the last ball of the penultimate over) which, by his own admission, he simply missed.
Notwithstanding that, it had been a superb, controlled innings by the 23-year-old opener, playing in only his fifth T20 international, spanning 68 deliveries, and it was so consistently paced that England's highest successful run chase in this form of the game was never in serious doubt.
Hales hit four sixes – two off Rampaul, one each off Dwayne Bravo and Fidel Edwards, all on the leg side. The innings overtook the 85 not out made by Eoin Morgan against South Africa in Johannesburg as the best by an England batsman, and his partnership of 159 with Ravi Bopara established another record, the highest for any England wicket in T20.
Bopara, dropped on 44, could not see the job through either – caught at long-off for 59 off 44 balls – but Morgan collected the winning runs with two deliveries remaining.
Fittingly, after a shoddy display in the field by the West Indies to complete an unhappy tour, they came off a misfield.
It was all much more comfortable than England had imagined after a middle-order flourish from Bravo, with a 34-ball 50, and Kieron Pollard had driven West Indies to what looked like a competitive 172 for 4 after electing to bat first, the pair adding 65 in less than five overs to build on Dwayne Smith's 70 as the visitors recovered impressively from the early loss of Chris Gayle.Reuse content