By Garfield Robinson
On a day when all eyes were fixed on the returning Chris Gayle, England captain Alastair Cook scored his 12th One Day International (ODI) century which ensured an easy victory over the West Indies at The Oval. The margin was eight wickets and the win gives the hosts an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three ODI series. The final game is scheduled for Friday at Headingly, Leeds.
Cook was in total control throughout his innings. His favourite scoring area square on the offside was not neglected, but he was just as proficient through mid-off and midwicket. His eventual 122 contained 13 fours scored in all areas of the park, and one six, lifted sweetly over long on off Sammy. It was a special knock by the England captain.
There were many—and not just West Indies supporters—who saw the visitors as favourites for the limited overs games. The thought was that the return of Gayle, along with the powerful hitting of players like Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell and the in-form Marlon Samuels, would prove to be too much for the hosts. Sunil Narine was not very convincing in the last test at Egbaston, but the limited overs format was more familiar to him and the expectation was the return of the bowler who was good against Australia and special in the IPL.
But maybe such thoughts did not run deep enough. The English bowling attack was the same as in the tests. And despite the onslaught from Gayle at the top of the innings, they kept the tourists in check just as they did in the tests. The West Indies’ 238 was immediately recognized as inadequate and Cook, assisted by Bell, with a pleasant half century, and Trott, who made an untroubled 43, eased his side to victory with all of five overs to spare.
England again won the toss and elected to field and Gayle and Lendl Simmons started carefully on a surface that was straightforward for batting. But after a few overs Gayle signaled his intentions by smacking Finn for three consecutive boundaries. He was at his brutal best when Bresnan came on, smiting him for three sixes in his first over, one a gigantic hit which landed on the roof above the player’s pavilion.
Yes, this was the Chris Gayle everyone was waiting to see, but when he got to 53, punctuated with five sixes and three fours, Swann won an LBW verdict against him. Umpire Tony Hill must have run it through his mind a number of times because he took an eternity to raise his finger. The batsman immediately requested a review on the basis that he had played the ball unto his pad, but the replay gave little assistance in deciphering which came first (bat or pad) and so the original decision was upheld. Many shared the Jamaican’s disappointment as he trudged off shaking his head with the score on 63.
Dwayne Smith did not trouble the scorers and Samuels made only 13, so it was left to Pollard and Dwayne Bravo to get the visitors back on track. They batted well to add 100 without getting into the pyrotechnics that Pollard especially, can sometimes produce. The big Trinidadian fell for 41 trying to hook a bouncer from Bresnan. Sammy then came, made 21, and added 41 with Bravo before hitting straight to Eoin Morgan at point.
Bravo, the West Indies’ best player on the day, batted gallantly for 77, but the West Indies innings never gained the impetus that was needed to set an imposing score and the English batting hardly broke sweat in overcoming their paltry total.
The visitors had to wait until the 22nd over for their first breakthrough. The partnership was worth 122 and Ian Bell had scored 53 when he hit an off-cutter to Gayle at cover. Trott and Cook then took the score to 203 before the captain gave Sammy his second wicket when he got a top-edge trying to bash his second six off successive balls. Ravi Bopara then joined Trott and they took the hosts home without further bother.
If the West Indies does not improve for the next game, then England will take another Sunday evening stroll on Friday.