Good news and bad news for England. They were given abundant opportunity on Sunday to practise their skills against slow bowling of which they will face plenty in the forthcoming World Twenty20. They were hopeless at it.
This was not the first time down the years that England have been bewitched, bothered and bewildered by cunning deviations and unexpected drift of the ball and the tour to the United Arab Emirates two years ago probably still haunts many batsmen. Still it was perturbing that they seem to have learned so little and that they are days from a major competition in Bangladesh where spin will be prevalent.
Chasing 171 to win the first T20 of three against West Indies, they were immediately undermined by a three slow bowlers, the leg spinner Samuel Badree, the mystery off spinner Sunil Narine and the more conventional off-breaks of Marlon Samuels. They took six wickets for 46 in 10 overs between them to guide their side to victory by 27 runs.
To add to England’s woes, their captain, Stuart Broad, will miss the next two T20 matches with tendonitis of his right knee but hopes to be fit for the world tournament.
England displayed ineptitude, naïvety and misplaced ambition. They also misread the surface. It may have looked like a road but that did not dissuade the home side from fielding three spinners to England’s one.
Moeen Ali and Stephen Parry were omitted and only James Tredwell played. Tredwell bowled four delightfully shrewd overs for 16 runs.
There is much too little time to paper over the cracks. England simply did not look as if they had a plan. In truth, they did not look as if they had a clue. Alex Hales advanced down the wicket to Badree and was stumped. To the next ball, Luke Wright, tried a primitive swish, and was also stumped.
Michael Lumb was caught on the boundary to give Badree figures of 3 for 17 from his four overs. Jos Buttler reverse swept Narine and was caught at short third man, Eoin Morgan was caught on the rope.
It was slightly embarrassing for England when Ben Stokes was beaten all ends up by Samuels’ turn. Ravi Bopara offered a response with 42 from 24 balls, as did Tim Bresnan, but it was forlorn resistance.
England had stuck to their task rather admirably after the first ball of the match from Stuart Broad was pulled for six and the opening over cost 19.
Off the first ball of the 18th over, bowled by Jade Dernbach, Tredwell put down Samuels. The next five balls each went for four.
The last five overs yielded 55 runs. There had been only one higher chase in all T20s in the West Indies – in St Lucia when Australia scored a remarkable win against Pakistan in the 2010 World Twenty20 semi-final. It needed batting of a vintage that England were able to demonstrate.