England beat West Indies by eight wickets at The Oval

 

England cruised to an
eight-wicket win over West Indies at The Oval, on the back of a century
from Alastair Cook, to wrap up the NatWest Series a match early.

Cook (112) shared a century opening stand with Ian Bell (53) and then put on 81 for the second wicket with Jonathan Trott as England raced past West Indies' patchy 238 for nine with five overs to spare to establish an unassailable 2-0 lead.

The hard work was done, though, when Cook's bowling attack withstood an early barrage from Chris Gayle (53) and restricted the Windies to an under-par total despite a worthy 77 from Dwayne Bravo.

On a typically reliable batting surface of even pace and bounce, Cook and Bell then duly put England's achievable target into context.

There was barely a false shot from either as Cook won the race to 50, until Bell forewent the chance of his own second successive hundred by loosely pushing a change of pace from Darren Sammy straight into the hands of cover.

Cook made no mistake, until he lobbed a cutter from Sammy over the bowler to be caught by mid-on, as he extended an enviable sequence of six centuries from an England opener in consecutive one-day internationals - a series the captain himself began with back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

Unsurprisingly, six victories have resulted, Cook underpinning the latest with his fifth hundred at this level - containing 12 fours in 114 balls.

The ease of England's victory, and West Indies' continuing blank on this tour, was hardly in the offing when Gayle was demonstrating his renowned raw power with five sixes and three fours clattered to all parts in a 41-ball 50 at the top of the order.

Cook must have been wondering what he had done while Gayle was in full flow after the Windies were put in on a sunny morning.

But twice two wickets, starting with Gayle's, fell on the same score as the Windies stumbled to 79 for four.

A sombre atmosphere, following the death yesterday of Tom Maynard, prevailed at the Surrey batsman's home ground - where a minute's silence in his memory preceded start of play, flags remained at half-mast and both teams wore black armbands.

Once under way, the hope was that cricket might be allowed to lift spirits or at least divert the senses - and Gayle did not disappoint.

James Anderson and Steve Finn bowled three maidens in the first four overs. But once Gayle had deposited Anderson for his first six, sent thudding into the electronic scoreboard with a pull high over midwicket, four more followed in 10 balls.

He greeted first-change Tim Bresnan with three sixes in his first over, the last on to the roof of the Bedser Stand at wide long-on.

His last maximum, off Anderson, brought a brief lull while England summoned help to retrieve the ball from a trough underneath the press box.

When Gayle reached his 50, with an incongruous nudge to midwicket for a single off Bresnan, his near silent opening partner Lendl Simmons was still in single-figures.

A shock absentee in West Indies' defeat in the opening match of this series because of a shin injury, Gayle was playing in his first international fixture since last year's World Cup following a dispute with his employers.

He seemed to be on the fast track to marking the occasion with a 20th one-day international hundred too, until Graeme Swann won the tightest of lbw decisions against the left-hander.

Gayle went without hesitation to DRS after Tony Hill gave him out, but third umpire Kumar Dharmasena upheld his colleague's decision as replays showed contact with bat and pad was simultaneous.

Gayle slowly trudged off in disbelief - and everything changed.

Dwayne Smith went for a duck, swishing at only the second delivery from Stuart Broad and edging behind.

Simmons eventually fell to a direct hit from Cook at mid-off, ending a 50-ball innings which produced only 12 runs - and when Marlon Samuels miscued a pull at Broad straight to deep midwicket, West Indies had two new men at the crease on nought.

Kieron Pollard escaped an obvious stumping opportunity off Swann on 28, and Bravo's mishit at the off-spinner on 18 just spilled out of Eoin Morgan's hands running in and diving from long-off.

But between them, until Pollard holed out in the leg-side deep off Bresnan, the fifth-wicket pair did admirably in a stand of 100 to keep West Indies in position to attack the last 10 overs.

Bravo's deserved share amounted to eight fours and two sixes from 82 balls, before he skied Anderson and was well-held by Ravi Bopara in the penultimate over.

But the suspicion already was already he had merely managed to delay an inevitable home win - and so it proved.

PA

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