”Oh, no!” Jason Roy shrieked after miscuing the loft. The bat had twisted in his hand on contact, leaving the intention of going gun barrel straight in disarray. It was a rare occasion when the Kookaburra refused to meet the sweet spot of the willow at Kensington Oval on Thursday. For, it had succumbed to the magnetic pull hitherto with Rovman Powell bashing anything and everything out of the screws.
West Indies were 54/2 at the end of the PowerPlay. Brandon King had become George Garton’s maiden international wicket and Shai Hope had done little to mend his woeful record against England in T20Is. The openers were gone, but Nicholas Pooran had jumped on Garton’s predictable lengths and condemned the debutant to a 19-run over to rush to 32 off 17. The chief aggressor in the first six, Pooran would soon be playing second fiddle to the bulldozing beast that is Powell.
Standing in for Eoin Morgan who pulled a quadricep while limbering up, Moeen Ali was greeted into the attack with a monster hit down the ground, 108m to be precise. Powell backed up the roof-transcending blow with a jab that split the two fielders in the deep. Liam Livingstone was sent on the journey when he overcooked the flight on his leggies while Tymal Mills was butchered over mid-wicket, his economy reading 13 after two overs.
It’s a worn trope that West Indies deal in boundaries, an endeavour carried out at the expense of strike rotation. However, Powell and Pooran made a concerted effort to get off strike, ensuring West Indies played only 40 dots as compared to an eyebrow-raising 58 in the second T20I. In what was another significant departure from the customary Caribbean ways, Pooran was mature enough to drop a gear and take the backseat with Powell striking at 173.9 to usher the hosts to 96/2 at halfway stage.
Seeing out Adil Rashid proved to be a masterstroke as well. He had picked the only wicket to fall in the Windies’ innings during the series opener and returned a couple in the next, giving away just 24 runs. Pooran and Powell, instead, went for the jugular against Livingstone, with a reverse sweep putting his line off to such an extent that he sprayed five wides and ended up leaking 26 off his third and final over. It was only fitting that Rashid drew curtains on the 122-run stand – best third-wicket partnership for West Indies in their T20I history – as Pooran departed for a career-best 70. The spinner finished with 4-0-25-1, admirable figures in a run-fest that saw 428 runs being thwacked in 40 overs, the highest aggregate score in a T20I match in the West Indies.
”We knew Rashid was the most threatening bowler for them, was looking to get 25-30 off him, and then target the others. There was a big side and a small side, didn’t want either two right-handers or left-handers to Rashid,” Powell said in the presentation ceremony.
England’s death bowling merchants were up for a stern test yet again. The debutant Garton gave the impression of a rabbit in the headlights as Powell scourged him for two fours and a maximum, the gunshot crack of leather on wood echoing across Bridgetown. Interspersed between the thumps were ones and twos pushing the boundary riders to their very limit. Having notched up three figures with an anti-climatic single, Powell flayed a full toss over extra cover to slam his tenth six of the tornado of a knock.
Windies’ skipper Kieron Pollard reserved special praise for Powell while believing that this performance would help the team develop a holistic approach to T20 batting. ”Powell vindicated the selection, but we still needed to bat well. Batted first and batted well, Powell came in and grasped the opportunity, so well done to him. We played well against spinners, that’s something that hasn’t happened in the recent past. We set the template, spoke about it a lot in the meetings. We can always bring the big shots into play, one boundary was short and we could clear it. Sometimes we’ll have to take the ego out of the game.”
The moisture made the ball skid beautifully onto the bat as England rode on Tom Banton’s 73 off 39 and late pyrotechnics from Phil Salt worth 57 off 24 to remain in contention for the better part of the 225-run chase. The visitors were 174/5 after 17 overs, but fell short by 20 runs on an evening when Rovman Powell set the cricketing stage on fire.