With the World Twenty20 a mere three days away, England produced yet another uncertain performance of the shortest form's arts. They went down by five wickets to the West Indies in this second game, and lose the three-match series.
What perhaps mattered more than the defeat, with one match to go on Thursday, was the evidence that England are still casting around for a workable method for the tournament in Bangladesh starting on Sunday. They were better but not that much better. The feeling is that time may already have run out.
From 26 for 3 in the fifth over, England effected a recovery through the charmingly blazing bat of Jos Buttler. But West Indies came out slugging at the start of their response and after that it was a case simply of seeing it through. They, too, had their moments of doubt as England refused to disappear without trace, as they had in last Sunday's defeat, but there was enough fuel in the tank and shots in the locker to see them through with seven balls to spare.
On this occasion England appeared to have judged the pitch correctly by including two mores spinners, Stephen Parry and Moeen Ali, one of whom did not bowl. But that does not mean they picked the most efficient team with a major tournament looming so quickly.
Buttler is never dull. Were he to pursue a career to match his name, he would come into the drawing room to serve his lordship a gin and tonic on a silver platter, perform a double backward somersault with pike and not spill a drop.
He is supposed to be the finisher in this form of the game but on this occasion he had to be the start, the middle and almost the end. He did not quite complete the third act.
There were three sixes and three fours in his 67 from 43 balls and it is at least arguable that he was forced into deceleration by the rain delay of 45 minutes just as he was entering into full stride.
Together with Alex Hales, who was altogether much less convincing, he rescued an innings that was again heading for disaster.
In wisdom which can probably be considered less than infinite, England chose to go into the match without Ian Bell, who has replaced the injured Joe Root in their squad for this series and the World Twenty20. To have Bell, one of the world's leading batsmen, around to carry drinks almost amounts to disrespect.
Although he has not played a T20 match for three years (in which case, why have him around?) Bell is presumably a smarter bet than the present top three. Michael Lumb and the new cap Ali failed. Hales was a qualified success but could have been out three times.
The captain Eoin Morgan, standing in for the injured Stuart Broad, was perhaps most culpable, essaying a pick up shot into the wind. Buttler's glamorous innings – there was a scoop for six included – gave England a chance, but West Indies liked the pace on the ball from the start.
Effective middle overs of spin put England back into the match but their opponents' captain, Darren Sammy, plundered in style to secure victory.Reuse content