England rub Salt into Windies’ wounds | Crickit
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England rub Salt into Windies’ wounds

Jun 20, 2024 11:35 AM IST

Opener hits unbeaten 87 as defending champions win Super 8 game with 15 balls to spare

A Twenty20 match isn’t really about tactics. Rather, one might argue, it is all about instinct; instinct that allows you to seize the moment and ride it to victory. With everyone going hell for leather, the chances will come. The match may turn on one brilliant innings (like the one Phil Salt played) or an economical over (like the one Jofra Archer bowled to Nicolas Pooran) or simply one dropped catch (Salt was dropped off Akeal Hosein in the third over of the chase).

England's Phil Salt embraces teammate Jonathan Bairstow, right, after defeating the West Indies in their men's T20 World Cup.(PTI)
England's Phil Salt embraces teammate Jonathan Bairstow, right, after defeating the West Indies in their men's T20 World Cup.(PTI)

Had the West Indies found a way to rise to the occasions (and there were many of them), they might have won. Instead, defending champions England found a winning rhythm to chase down 180 with eight wickets and 15 balls to spare.

West Indies, batting first, got off to a good start and made their way to 94 before Johnson Charles (38 off 24) was dismissed in the 12th over. Given the firepower the West Indies line-up possesses, it was the perfect platform for the hosts to kick things into a higher gear.

And for a while, with skipper Rovman Powell striking them big, it looked West Indies had done exactly that. Even the mishits seemed to be flying over the boundary as the right-hander smashed his way 36 off 17 (5 sixes) before being caught on the boundary line off Liam Livingstone.

But, at this point, England found their way back to the game. Exactly six balls later, Pooran, who had smashed a brilliant 98 in the previous game against Afghanistan, was dismissed. Archer produced an over of rare quality, homing in on the yorker length, making the batter play and miss before finally bowling the final delivery of the over in the slot to take the edge and the wicket.

It was a game-changing moment. Andre Russell fell five balls later and the West Indies, despite a cameo of 28 runs off 15 balls by Sherfane Rutherford, finished well short of the 200-run mark.

Highlights West Indies vs England T20 World Cup 2024

Given the nature of the format, no one wanted to make a prediction, but England would have felt quietly confident at the break. But what happened to the West Indies could so easily have happened England too. However, where the defending champions were alert, the hosts were a tad slow. And sometimes, that is all it takes.

Pooran, the hero in the last game, dropped two catches. Salt in the third over — way before he got going — and Moeen Ali. One of those drops cost them the match.

Salt, who had been brilliant (435 runs at a SR of 182.01) for Kolkata Knight Riders in the just-concluded IPL season, played a mature, quickfire innings to reduce the match to a no-contest. His unbeaten 47-ball 87 included seven fours and five sixes.

The manner in which he controlled the tempo of his innings was particularly noteworthy. He got to 40 off 24 balls, then slowed down, giving more of the strike to Jonny Bairstow (48 runs off 26 balls). It was only towards the end that he decided to have another go — smashing Romario Shepherd for 30 runs in 16th over of the innings to virtually end the game.

England’s had been a strange tournament so far -- a washed-out game against Scotland, a defeat against Australia and two easy wins against Oman and Namibia. So, one wasn’t quite sure where the defending champs were with their game yet. But this performance had a solid feel to it; a feel of things starting to click into place.

“People say you learn when you lose, but you learn when you win as well. Important to put this to bed and focus now,” said England skipper Jos Buttler after the game.

For the West Indies, it was their first defeat in nine games. They’ll know the mistakes they made especially on the bowling front and will hope to make amends against the United States and South Africa in the remaining Super 8 games. Perhaps, they’ll seize their moments then.

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