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) that, 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 fifty, 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 the destructive threat of Chris Gayle.
At the end of the six-over powerplay, England had conceded only 29 runs. Moreover, their plan to bowl short at Gayle had taken only eight deliveries to bear fruit as Steven Finn's well-controlled bouncer invited a pull shot that soared off the top edge. Jonny Bairstow, used to standing somewhat closer to the stumps in his day job as Yorkshire wicketkeeper, needed to allow for a strong wind as he ran around the rope to fine leg, which only added to the merit of a superbly-judged catch. The one he held to remove Lendl Simmons, similarly tempted by a shorter ball, this time from Stuart Broad, was just as good, taken with a full-length dive.
It was not until the 10th over that any West Indian cleared the ropes. Yet by the end of the 20th they had 10, which is a measure of the extent to which they were able to build on a wonderfully measured innings from Smith that looked destined to become his first international hundred until he chased a wide ball from Finn and was caught behind.
The last eight overs added 109 runs, including four sixes from Smith (who hit five in total), three from Bravo and two from Pollard. Jade Dernbach took the heaviest punishment, going for 46 runs in his four overs, 18 of those in his last two. Finn, with two for 22, was comfortably the most impressive of the England attack.
Trent Bridge scoreboard
England beat West Indies by 7 wickets
West Indies won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
D R Smith c Kieswetter b Finn 70 5 5 54 55
C H Gayle c Bairstow b Finn 2 0 0 8 8
L M P Simmons c Bairstow b Broad 6 0 1 5 11
M N Samuels c Kieswetter b Swann 4 0 1 4 5
D J Bravo not out 54 3 1 36 54
K A Pollard not out 23 2 1 13 23
Extras (b1 lb4 w8) 13
Total(for 4, 20 overs) 172
Fall: 1-10, 2-24, 3-30, 4-107.
Did notbat: †D Ramdin, *D J G Sammy, S P Narine, R Rampaul, F H Edwards.
Bowling: S T Finn 4-0-22-2, J W Dernbach 4-0-46-0, S C J Broad 4-0-33-1, G P Swann 4-0-32-1, S R Patel 4-0-34-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
†C Kieswetter c Smith b Rampaul 3 0 0 7 9
A D Hales b Rampaul 99 4 6 68 81
R S Bopara c Edwards b Samuels 59 1 4 44 72
E J G Morgan not out 2 0 0 1 2
J C Buttler not out 0 0 0 0 0
Extras (lb2 w2 nb6) 10
Total(for 3, 19.4 overs) 173
Fall: 1-10, 2-169, 3-171.
Did not bat: J M Bairstow, S R Patel, G P Swann, *S C J Broad, J W Dernbach, S T Finn.
Bowling: R Rampaul 4-0-37-2, F H Edwards 4-0-33-0, S P Narine 4-0-28-0, D J Bravo 2-0-21-0, D J G Sammy 3-0-22-0, K A Pollard 1-0-15-0, M N Samuels 1.4-0-15-1.
Umpires: R K Illingworth and R A Kettleborough.
- More about:
- Archipelago And Islands
- Caribbean Islands (west Indies)
- South Africa
- Twenty20 Cup