First ODI: Old Trafford: West Indies 204-9 from 42 overs; England 210-4 from 30.5 overs (Bairstow 100*, Stokes 23*)
As in the rather pointless one-day international series in the West Indies in March, this was a cakewalk for England.
After a two-hour delay for ‘overnight’ rain – don’t even mention that this was a day/night game not due to start until the aftenoon in any case – umpires Tim Robinson and Simon Fry deigned to allow us some cricket.
“We’ll give it a go” said Robinson in a manner rather suggesting they were doing us, and the 20,000 locked into the ground spending ever more money on overpriced beverages, a favour and that they’d really rather not.
It’s a laissez-faire attitude that also tends to inhabit the muscular form of Chris Gayle, especially when it comes to lumbering between the wickets, but at least you can be certain of some fireworks in the powerplay, when he is only required to stand and deliver’.
Gayle’s innings should have been over before it had begun, as he carved the third ball of the match to the second of three slips, but Joe Root spurned the opportunity.
With so many chances going down during the summer, it is more a cause for celebraiton when England do actually take one and, in fairness, Root made up for it several overs later with a stunning catch to dismiss the Universe Boss.
It was a once-in-a-career effort. Gayle was 26 balls into his stay when he mishit Chris Woakes, returning for an early second spell, and watched in disbelief as Root raced back from inside the circle at mid off, eyes on the ball as it dropped from high over his shoulder, and then put in an astonishing full length dive to grasp the ball cleanly in both hands.
Shame Gayle had hit three sixes, two fours and 37 runs in the intervening period.
That said, there were chances taken by Alex Hales to dismiss Evan Lewis and Jonny Bairstow, leaping like a ginger salmon at deep square to remove Shai Hope.
The extravagances of the powerplay overs were soon forgotten as England stemmed the flow of runs and Ben Stokes put the brakes on even further, strangling nemesis Marlon Samuels down the legside on review. Samuels, you may recall, once marked a Stokes dismissal by standing on ceremony for the Durham all-rounder, an incident commemorated by a Guerilla Cricket T-shirt here. Disappointingly, no reciprocal salute was forthcoming.
Plenty of West Indies batsmen got in, but with regularity they got out again as the pitch seemed to lose pace. Stokes took two more to finish with 3-43 and there were two wickets for Adil Rashid as those deliveries slower through the air came even more slowly off the pitch, making it difficult to fashion aggressive strokes.
But captain Eoin Morgan’s real masterstroke had been to bring Moeen Ali into the attack in the sixth over. Having removed Lewis in his first over, his spell only lasted one more over but he had done his job and disrupted the West Indies’ rhythm..
Jason Holder managed to scratch out 41 low in the order but the total looked well short of requirements.
Bairstow showed the decision to open with him in place of Jason Roy was a good one. True to his word, he was not going to let anyone down and after losing Alex Hales, who looked imperious before chopping to backward point, he set about rotating the strike superbly with Root, while taking what boundaries were on offer.
Root played on after an effortless fifty -the highlight a sweep fetched from a good yard outside off stump from leggie Devendra Bishoo and deposited all the way along the ground to the boundary between mid-wicket and mid-on.
Morgan also perished to the impressive Kesrick Williams, who seems to understand the variations that are necessary to prosper in the shorter formats of the game, but Bairstow, galloping between the wickets like a thoroughbred stallion, reached his first ODI century from 97 balls to get England over the line with more than 11 overs to spare.