Match Preview – West Indies vs England, England tour of West Indies 2023/24, 2nd ODI

Big picture – England in a rum spot (again)

Talk about another bloody day in paradise. England arrived in Antigua looking to launch a new chapter for their one-day cricket, after the disappointment of the World Cup, but were instead given a reboot up the backside by a feisty West Indies batting display, led by Shai Hope‘s scintillating, MS Dhoni-inspired hundred and ably supported with unfettered contributions from the likes of Alick Athanaze and Romario Shepherd.

Not for the first time, things haven’t gone to script for England in the Caribbean – and instantly it feels like there is more of an edge to this ODI series, with two matches still to play. West Indies, who lost to Zimbabwe, Netherlands and Scotland during their abject World Cup Qualifier earlier in the year, have plenty of ground to make up if they to return to the big time in 2027, but there was enough about their performance to suggest that they still have the talent to compete.

This team, after all, was missing potentially key personnel – with Nicholas Pooran and Jason Holder sitting out the format for now – and saw the build-up overshadowed by another predictable row about selection. Once the action got underway, they recovered from a poor start with the ball to prevent England getting away completely, and then staged another impressive revival from 213 for 5 in the 39th over – still needing 113 from 68 balls.

West Indies still had Hope, though, and come the end the glory, too, after pulling off their second-highest successful chase in ODIs. Already the team’s star batter, Hope has taken his game to another level since being appointed captain, but he spoke afterwards only of West Indies winning and learning how to back up their performances.

England, meanwhile, still have much to ponder in a format that has suddenly slipped out of their clutches, like an inflatable picked up by a gust of wind at the beach. Jos Buttler extolled the positives in defeat but came across looking like the bowler-hatted dog in the “This Is Fine” meme; more than three months after England began their ODI World Cup preparations against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street (three days after Buttler’s Manchester Originals were beaten finalists in the Hundred), he is beginning to look like a man who could do with some actual beach time.

Not that there weren’t one or two reasons for encouragement from an English perspective. Phil Salt and Will Jacks lit the royal blue touchpaper to give the innings a blistering start, and have now put on 219 runs from 178 balls in three opening stands together (a scoring-rate far in excess of even their most belligerent forebears). Harry Brook, one of the World Cup survivors, looked in good touch for his third ODI fifty and there was a reminder of the value of lower-order batting depth as Sam Curran and Brydon Carse helped add more than 80 runs for the last three wickets.

There was also a display full of nous from 19-year-old Rehan Ahmed with the ball, but that was one of the few bright spots of the second half of the game. Buttler, coming off another failure with the bat, could not marshal an effective response from his bowlers at the death – not helped by Curran, the senior-most member of the attack, having an all-timer of an off day, his 0 for 98 the worst analysis by an Englishman in ODIs.

Another shoddy display at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium will see the series concluded early – and give West Indies their first bilateral ODI success over England since 2007. There is also the small matter of the ICC rankings, which with the scrapping of the Super League will determine qualification for 2027. England, in sixth, still have a small cushion from the teams below them but the recent trend has been down; West Indies need to lift themselves from tenth to avoid further Qualifier indignities down the line.

This series is also England’s last ODI commitment until September 2024, by which time – post T20 World Cup – we might be talking about the reboot to the reboot. Buttler, in particular, needs to feel the sun on his shoulders and the wind at his back. As ever, such things can’t be taken for granted by an English cricketer in the Caribbean.

Form guide

West Indies WLWLL (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
England LWWLL

In the spotlight – Alick Athanaze and Jos Buttler

England’s openers were in party mood from the outset but it was Alick Athanaze who best combined aggression with staying power to put the West Indies chase on track, scoring the lion’s share of a 104-run first-wicket stand with Brandon King. Athanaze took a while to convert the promise of being the leading run-scorer at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup – just ahead of Shubman Gill, no less – into a chance at senior international level, but with his flowing cuts and pulls he certainly looked the part in his fifth ODI appearance. Now, in the words of his captain, it’s about producing big top-order runs consistently, “not just a one-off to show the world you can do something”.

Jos Buttler has spent much of his career in the spotlight – but these last couple of months he has felt the glare like no time before. Quite apart from England’s stuttering performances as a group, his own returns are beginning to look untenable (or they would be were he not perhaps his country’s greatest limited-overs batter ever). Out for a scratchy 3 on Sunday, caught off the glove playing one of his trademark reverse-sweeps, Buttler has now gone 13 innings without an ODI fifty – a rut without precedence, outside of his stop-start form in Tests. “It’s never as bad as you think it is and it’s never as good as you think it is,” Buttler said before the series, reflecting his sense of perspective. But now would be a good time to prove the first part true.

Team news – Few changes expected

West Indies may wish to stick with a winning XI, with almost everyone contributing in the first match – although young allrounder Matthew Forde could push for a debut.

West Indies (probable): 1 Alick Athanaze, 2 Brandon King, 3 Keacy Carty, 4 Shai Hope (capt & wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Sherfane Rutherford, 7 Romario Shepherd, 8 Yannic Cariah, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Gudakesh Motie, 11 Oshane Thomas

England went for batting depth and Liam Livingstone delivering a full quota of overs, only to see their three seamers all go at more than a run a ball. The uncapped John Turner has reportedly bowled with pace in the nets, while Tom Hartley offers another spin option.

England (probable): 1 Will Jacks, 2 Phil Salt, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Brydon Carse, 10 Rehan Ahmed, 11 Gus Atkinson.

Pitch and conditions

The surface for the first ODI belied North Sound’s slow-and-low reputation, with more runs scored in an ODI at the ground than ever before – and that despite some variable bounce and assistance for spin. The second match, a day-night fixture, will be played on a fresh strip, with a forecast for warm and humid conditions.

Stats and trivia

  • England’s 325 all out was the highest ODI total at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium – until it was bettered by West Indies in their chase.
  • Hope is 86 runs shy of overtaking Gordon Greenidge and moving into the top ten of West Indies men’s ODI run-scorers.
  • Buttler needs 36 runs to also reach 5000 in ODIs. However, he has passed that total just once in his last 10 innings.
  • Quotes

    “Obviously, he’s gone through a bit of a lean patch recently but as we see with so many of the great players I’m sure he’ll come straight out of that and will be scoring runs freely soon.”
    Harry Brook believes a score is around the corner for Buttler

    “Any time you cross the line, the main focus has to be to win. Every time you play cricket for West Indies, it’s so much more than just development. Yes, it’s a big thing for us, especially now, but we want to win this series, we’ve got a great chance to win this series.”
    Shai Hope is concerned about one thing only

    Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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