In so many ways it was a delightful match for an England supporter here yesterday. The sun shone on a still, warm day. Chris Gayle, the most destructive batsman in the world, plundered mercilessly at the start but the mayhem, while hugely enjoyable, was contained.
They might have wanted more but not much more because that way lay defeat. West Indies foundered, recovered, then foundered again to make a total that was serviceable but short of what they had sought.
England then knocked off the runs at a doddle to go 2-0 up and win their sixth successive one-day series at home. Alastair Cook, their captain, scored his fifth one-day century, his third in six innings this year, and it was also the sixth match in a row that an England batsman had reached a hundred, an unprecedented sequence.
The days when Cook was a limited limited-overs batsman are but a distant memory. It could not be said that he has all the shots but those that he possesses he uses lethally. He shared a first-wicket stand of 122 with Ian Bell, who was again resplendent. There is the makings here of a durable opening partnership.
And off home everybody sauntered content. But hanging over the proceedings, casting a pall that was impossible to dispel, was the death the previous day of the richly promising Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard. This was his home ground and the eyes of the Surrey staff on duty told their own story.
The second one-day international had to go ahead. Everybody recognised that because life has to go on. But that did not prevent some hesitancy about how to proceed. Cook said: "It's hit all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Maynard family."
England's players wore black armbands in memory of Maynard who was killed on a London Underground line in the early hours of Monday. A minute's silence was impeccably, morosely observed. It is the fate of one-day cricket matches to fade quickly from the memory. This one will be remembered: "Maynard's match".
Its conclusion was eventually all too predictable, England winning by eight wickets with 30 balls to spare, but the start was electrifying.
Gayle, playing his first international match for 15 months, took a few overs to find his range, assessing the pitch and managing the two new balls.
Then he launched into England's attack with vigour. First, by way of a mild warning, he took three successive fours off Steve Finn. The first of his five sixes was brutally pulled. Three more came in Tim Bresnan's first over, all struck thunderously down the ground. He then banged Jimmy Anderson back over his head. The ball, lodged in the top of the black sightscreen, had to be recovered by a spectator.
Much more of this and England's plans would have been in tatters. Like the banking crisis, there is no legislating for Gayle. He does as he wants. Of West Indies' first 50 runs he had 47. Lendl Simmons, his opening partner, was playing a different kind of game and might as well have been on a different planet. Then, without warning Gayle was out. He was desperately unfortunate, lbw to a smart piece of bowling from Graeme Swann. Gayle immediately asked for a review and the replays showed that both bat and pad were involved. It was decided that the ball hit the pad before the bat and Gayle, incredulous, had to go for 53 from 51 balls.
The end of the show deflated West Indies who were shortly 79 for 4 – Simmons loitering without intent was run out for an odd 12 which took 50 balls – and disaster was averted only by a sensible and skilful alliance between Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. By dint of playing diligently they put on 100 from 113 balls and with a little more than 10 overs left prepared for the final push.
Pollard hooked a high bouncer to deep square leg at just the wrong time, yet Darren Sammy did not hang around and an imposing target was still in view. But West Indies stalled in the important last overs when they added 19 runs and lost four more wickets.
England were winners from a long way out. West Indies' bowling was moderate and the mystery that now concerns their off-spinner Sunil Narine seems to be why he was ever considered a mystery. Bell was majestic. When he is in this mood, which has seemed often in the past two years, you could watch him bat for ever and a day. It was a huge surprise when he drove an off cutter from Sammy to short cover for 53.
Cook hardly blinked. He was given enough width to cut and when the tourists packed the off-side field he was too often allowed to drill through the leg side. As ever, he carved merrily away to wide deep mid-wicket, otherwise known as cow corner. None of this was pretty and when Bell was batting at the other end it looked ugly by comparison but, heck, Cook has refashioned an entire career with it.
He was out mistiming an attempt to hit his second six in two balls but by then he had 112 from 120 balls and it was done and dusted. If you were given the choice between watching a Gayle hundred, which looked probable, or a Cook hundred, you would choose Gayle (or you might pick Bell if he was added to the mix). But the fact that the question can be posed shows how far Cook has come.Reuse content