The West Indies record in ODIs before this series was poor by anyone’s standards. Having won 11 out of their previous 40 ODI matches and coming up against a top-dog team like England who are ranked number 1 in this format, it was a tough task. It was beyond my imagination to think that the West Indies would have drawn the recently concluded ODI series 2-2. This was quite astonishing by a team ranked number 9 in ODI cricket. With the 3rd ODI in Grenada being a wash-out, the other games in this series were competitive except for the final ODI at the Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia.
It was as though Chris Gayle had plans to hit the St Lucia beaches early, as he cracked a total of nine sixes in his whirlwind innings of 77 runs from just 27 balls.
England having won the 4th ODI, where over 700 runs were scored and a mammoth 419 to chase down for the Windies, they entered the last game full of confidence. On a true pitch with lots of grass on the surface, West Indies with their improving fast-bowling attack won the toss and sent in the visitors to have first strike. They were simply blown away by the pace and hostility of young Jamaican Oshane Thomas, who picked up his first 5 wicket haul in ODI cricket (5-21). The Englishmen were basically manhandled by the bounce, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes to name in particular. Backed up by the skipper Jason Holder and Carlos Braithwaite, these men used their height to generate bounce off the track. Reminded me of Ian Bishop, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in the 90’s, with all exceeding 6 feet 5 inches.
England compiling a paltry 113 had no answer to Chris Gayle a.k.a. Universe Boss. Mark Wood, consistently clocking 90mph proved no threat to the willow from Gayle on this occasion. A match that started 11am E.C.T. was ended in the mid-afternoon session. It was as though Chris Gayle had plans to hit the St Lucia beaches early, as he cracked a total of nine sixes in his whirlwind innings of 77 runs from just 27 balls. In the process, he scored the fastest half century by a West Indian batsman off 19 balls, beating Darren Sammy’s record off 20 balls (twice he achieved this feat). With 227 balls to spare, this was England’s biggest margin of defeat. A 7-wicket win was well-deserved for the men from the Caribbean on that Saturday afternoon.
With the World Cup around the corner, one couldn’t have asked for a better way to end a 20 year career in front of his Caribbean crowd. Chris Gayle’s curtain call after the World Cup from ODI cricket will be a loss, but this 2-2 series draw with World Cup favorites England in their own backyard has gained West Indies momentum moving forward. With Evin Lewis, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel due to be part of the World Cup squad, the West Indies are looking good. This series has shown that the bowling attack is not as feeble as originally thought, with Sheldon Cottrell providing variation with his left-arm fast bowling. I would have to say that West Indies however are lacking a genuine wicket-taking spin bowler.
Sunil Narine looks to be doubtful for the World Cup and it will be loss for West Indies as he has been a genuine wicket-taking spinner in the middle overs. Ashley Nurse seems steady but not a threat as he is more of a containing bowler. Devendra Bishoo has seemed to have lost his radar, with his bowling not living up to expectation. His leg-spin is no longer potent and seems to drag one down ever too often (short balls). At this stage, West Indies will enter the World Cup on May 31st 2019 with more respect. A year ago they had to qualify for this upcoming tournament having lost to Afghanistan in the final. Had it not been for rain and a dubious lbw decision in favor of West Indies, Scotland would have gone through. Lady luck played her part and it will have to again if West Indies are to reach far in the World Cup as well as being consistet in all departments. We shall see how it unfolds!