Just after the halfway point of their innings England, poised at a reasonable if not outstanding 64 for two, thrashed 24 runs off an over bowled by the spinner Fabian Allen. Even at the time it felt potentially decisive, but around an hour and a half later West Indies stood at a similar point in their reply, already nine runs and two wickets worse off, and needing a similar acceleration as England tossed the ball to a spinner of their own. Adil Rashid bowled a wicket maiden, Moeen Ali promptly took a couple more, and England were on their way to avenging their humiliating defeat in Saturday’s opener.
The contest was to be closer than anyone would at that point have predicted. Just as England’s victory appeared a formality Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein set about wrestling West Indies back into contention, bludgeoning nine sixes between them as the home side eventually fell short by a single run having ended their innings in such style that it is perhaps they, despite the defeat, who will go into the third game with greater momentum.
A high-scoring and in the end thrillingly close encounter could hardly have been more different to the first match of the series, surprisingly because at the start it looked almost the same: again West Indies won the toss and put England in while Eoin Morgan resisted the urge to make wholesale changes to a losing team – the substitution of Reece Topley for Tymal Mills was the only change to either side – and sagely noted before the start that “the challenge, similar to yesterday, is going to be adapting to conditions – but better”.
The most significant difference from Saturday’s opener was the pitch, just a few metres away but without the flecks of green that perhaps contributed to the tourists’ batting woes. More important still was its location, which left one boundary significantly closer than the other. This increasingly came to dominate West Indies’ thinking as they bowled, leading at one point to Chris Jordan – who made another fine cameo with the bat but whose death bowling was later to be brutally punished – facing Romario Shepherd with his heels on the line of off stump, leaving most of the wicket unguarded as the ball was angled across him.
Though England did not exactly explode out of the blocks, with Saturday’s scars still fresh a little circumspection seemed appropriate. West Indies’ own reading of the conditions quickly became clear: there were three overs of spin in the powerplay, during which Jason Holder produced a couple of slow balls that were no faster than some of what Allen and Hosein were producing, one of which completely bewildered Jason Roy. Allen eventually made a double breakthrough in the final over of the powerplay, dismissing both Tom Banton and James Vince.
At the other end Jason Roy watched and learned, and it was he who was single-handedly responsible for massacring Allen’s final over shortly after drinks. At the halfway stage of England’s innings Roy had 17 off 23; six deliveries later he was on the verge of a half-century, a mark he failed to meet after slapping Shepherd’s second delivery of the night straight to long-on.
West Indies will regret the quality of their fielding, which was at times completely hapless. Most notably Moeen was twice the beneficiary of ghastly drops, though Darren Bravo had the decent excuse of the setting sun glaring straight at him as he stood still and let the ball drop safely nearby.
England’s 171 for eight appeared a more than decent total, all the more so when the first three overs of West Indies’ reply went for three, two and one while Reece Topley was responsible for taking two wickets, trapping Brandon King, whose half-century made him the outstanding batter of the opening encounter, with the second ball of the innings and brilliantly running out Shai Hope in his next over.
When Bravo, Kieron Pollard and then Odean Smith fell shortly after the halfway stage of the West Indies, leaving them 65 for seven, another comprehensive defeat appeared likely. But that was before Shepherd made his dramatic intervention. Suddenly it was raining sixes, Shepherd hammering Dawson over midwicket and then, three balls later, sending the ball looping over the Garfield Sobers Pavilion.
Fabian Allen’s dismissal in the 16th over, pulling to Tom Banton at deep backward square leg, seemed likely to drain the batting side’s momentum, but instead Hosein increased it. In 14 previous T20 internationals his highest score had been six; here he hit a ludicrous 16-ball 44. At the start of Saqib Mahmood’s final over West Indies needed a hilariously improbable 30 runs, but two wides, two fours and three sixes later it was England’s bowling that appeared comic, and the home side had been brilliantly, thrillingly, and very nervously beaten.