England went 1-0 up on West Indies with a 45-run win in the first match of their one-day international series. Here are the key talking points so far.
Morgan’s men for all seasons
England’s captain Eoin Morgan warned on the eve of the series that their modern methods of blasting the ball to all parts from the outset would have to be tempered in the prevailing conditions for this tour. So it turned out in the first one-day international, as he and Ben Stokes – England’s two most successful batsmen – took a combined 59 balls to reach double-figures. After his match-winning century, the Irishman concluded England can ‘still implement our game’ once they have two men properly set. Expect a continuation of the slow-burn, on Sunday for sure. Bridgetown next week may be slightly different.
Hales will have to wait?
England’s record-breaking opener Alex Hales was showing all the signs with his outfield catching in training before the first match that he is on track to return when needed. In the meantime, after two low scores in the St Kitts warm-up fixtures, Sam Billings was back with his second half-century in three ODI innings at the top of the order on Friday. He was kicking himself for getting out, though, failing to clear the off-spinner’s most important fielder at straight midwicket – and if he is to keep Hales waiting for long, Billings will need a hundred very soon.
Stokes-Brathwaite rematch delayed
So much of the pre-series chat and hype concerned Stokes’ re-acquaintance with Carlos Brathwaite. The two charismatic all-rounders amounted in many minds to a match within a match, after Brathwaite mugged Stokes and England with four successive sixes in Kolkata just under a year ago to bag West Indies’ second ICC World Twenty20 title in the past three stagings of that global tournament. Their much-anticipated set-to barely took place at all, though, in match one. Stokes did not bowl, and on the way to his 50 he faced just 10 balls from Brathwaite – collecting seven runs and no boundary. They have a second chance to settle their scores on Sunday.
Supporting cast shone
If the Stokes-Brathwaite show did not deliver first up, others made up for it as England discovered West Indies have game-changers right through their batting order. It seemed the hosts would be heavily reliant on the top three, then the big-hitting Brathwaite or possibly captain Jason Holder if they were to get anywhere near in their chase of 296 for six. Instead, it was the unheralded Jason Mohammed and Jonathan Carter who threatened to make England sweat. Morgan agreed afterwards that he always felt England had the game, but he can be in no doubt that West Indies – including the apparently improved Shannon Gabriel with the new ball – have plenty of players who can do some damage.
Buttler needs a score
It is hard to imagine any time soon that England will leave out their wicketkeeper-batsman, because they know if he clicks they win. Jos Buttler has hit the three fastest ODI hundreds in his country’s history, and can transform a match in a matter of minutes. In six white-ball international innings since the turn of the year, however, he has made only 81 runs. The Champions Trophy is only seven matches away, and England need their Buttler back as soon as possible.