Different format, same old pain for England this most chastening of winters.
Exactly a week after Ashes humiliation was completed 48 hours ahead of schedule in a flurry of rash strokes in Hobart, a shadow Twenty20 side quick-stepped to disaster at the beginning of a new bid by Eoin Morgan to unite global white-ball belts. Such ineptitude is clearly not the preserve of the Test team.
For a while it looked like the floodlights would not be required as Jason Holder, who finished with career-best figures of four for seven, and Sheldon Cottrell dismantled the top order. It got better but not much as West Indies cantered to a nine-wicket win.
The West Indies dominated the first T20, beating England by nine wickets in Bridgetown
The start to England’s innings certainly provided a stark contrast to that of Wednesday’s warm-up win over a Barbados XI when Jason Roy crunched a hundred off just 36 balls, reaching his landmark with his 10th six. A monstrous 92 runs came during the powerplay.
This time, Roy managed to clear the ropes just once as the first six overs returned an anaemic 26 for four after Kieron Pollard won the toss and asked his bowlers to exploit a fresh pitch.
With the ball behaving capriciously off it and showing obvious signs of variable bounce, England mustered 39 runs at the halfway stage of their scheduled 20 overs – batters either slicing it into West Indian hands or in the case of Sam Billings, a member of both losses in the past seven days, allowing it to pass him and enter those of wicketkeeper Shai Hope.
Jason Roy (right) managed to score just six runs before he was bowled by Sheldon Cottrell
James Vince (left) looked fluent as he scored 14 off 12 before being caught by Darren Bravo
When Liam Dawson marked his first T20 cap for four years with a suicidal call for a single, they were six wickets down one delivery into the second half of the innings.
With the tail left for company, Morgan no longer bided his time. However, he fell immediately after looking to launch a counter-attack, picking out extra cover the ball after launching Romario Shepherd for six over long-off.
At that stage it looked as if England’s lowest ever score of 80 was under threat.
Jason Holder finished with career-best figures of four for seven on Saturday
But from a position of 49 for seven, Chris Jordan, who went to school a couple of miles down the road from the Kensington Oval, began striking the ball as cleanly as anyone, hitting three sixes in a top score of 28 before succumbing to slow left-armer Fabian Allen attempting a fourth.
Shortly afterwards, there were ironic cheers from an English dominated, Covid-restricted crowd of around 5,000 when Adil Rashid punched a single down the ground off Allen to bring up three figures in the penultimate over, before Holder finished off the innings with two wickets in as many deliveries.
England have travelled to the Caribbean without multi-format players like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood and lost another member of their side eliminated from last year’s World Cup at the semi-final stage when Liam Livingstone was ruled out of this weekend’s double header through illness.
Chris Jordan top scored for England, with 28 runs off 23 balls before being caught by Fabian Allen off the bowling of Sheldon Cottrell
Ahead of this series, Morgan said these five matches were more about developing England’s bench strength than preparing for this October’s second such tournament in 12 months.
And in West Indies they are facing a side who have hardly pulled up trees since they won their second world title via Carlos Brathwaite’s 15 minutes of fame in 2016.
So far have they fallen, in fact, that they can now be found wedged between the respective might of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, in 10th place in the official ICC standings.
Windies opener Brandon King hit an unbeaten century as the hosts cruised home
The old guard have been ditched in a bid to arrest the slide. Indeed, only captain Pollard, his deputy Nicholas Pooran and spinner Akeal Hosein remain from the XI that marked their title defence last autumn by being dismissed for just 55 by England in Dubai.
Brandon King, very much the future of Windies cricket, orchestrated the emphatic turnaround in fortunes with an unbeaten half-century, unperturbed by regularly being defeated during an impressive Dawson spell of 4-0-12-0 and pounding anything that was off line.
England’s solitary success came when Rashid lured Hope out of his ground to terminate the first wicket stand at 52, exactly halfway to the Windies’ underwhelming target.