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The first ODI between England and West Indies was billed as the tale of two openers. While the prodigal son, Chris Gayle was ruled out of the match due to a foot injury, his English counterpart Ian Bell, identified as Kevin Pietersen's successor by Andy Flower, repaid his coach's faith with a artistic ton punctuated by 12 fours and a six. Despite carrying a suspected fracture of his jaw, Bell (126) cut, drove and pulled magnificently to steer the hosts to a formidable 288. His 108 run association with Jonathan Trott (42) formed the cornerstone of the English innings. In response, West Indies lost their way after a sparkling start and slumped to 172 all-out. Dwayne Smith (56) ran riot before Tim Bresnan(4-34) ignited the collapse. Big Bresnan was ably supported by James Anderson and Grame Swann, who snapped up 2 scalps apiece.
West Indies, energized by the arrival of reinforcements to their squad, collided with England in the first of the three match ODI series on a breezy day at Southampton. In a cruel quirk of fate, Chris Gayle, scheduled to return to the international arena following more than a year in the wilderness, missed the game owing to an injury. Kevin Pietersen's premature retirement in the abbreviated forms of the game meant that the Poms had to rejig their batting. Ian Bell, who was hit in the chin during the net session cleared a late fitness test to take up his new role as 'opener'. As expected, Alastair Cook fielded a four pronged pace attack in an effort to exploit the conditions expertly. The West Indies team's all-rounder heavy nature branded them slight favorites. Darren Sammy won the toss elected to bowl first on a pitch that promised plenty of assistance to the bowlers.
Ravi Rampaul struck with his third delivery to have Captain Cook caught behind for nought. Rampaul, maintaining a probing line and length on and about off-stump tested the technique and temperament of the English batsmen right through his opening spell. After a quiet period, Bell lashed out at Andre Russell, plundering 18 off the 6th over. Bell's straight six over Russell's head had majestic written all over it. The 30-year old continued to score at a brisk pace to power England to a good score. Meanwhile, his Warwickshire colleague, Jonathan Trott oozed solidity and maneuvered the ball into the open spaces. The pair were very alert between the wickets and kept the Caribbean fielders on their toes. The Poms motored along to 76-1 in 15 overs.
'Fluent' Bell reached his half-century in style by virtue of an attractive boundary off Sunil Narine. Trott picked up the pace in the bowling powerplay and orchestrated a few fours of his own. West Indies' uncharacteristically sloppy fielding did not help their cause either.
Against the run of play, Sunil Narine sniffed out the 108 run alliance by removing Trott for 42 in the 21st over. Sammy and the mystery spinner managed to slow down the scoring rate. Bopara(8) did not last long and succumbed to Marlon Samuels' skidder. Bell though batted with aplomb and milked the West Indian bowling admirably. Eoin Morgan brought his inventive stoke-play to the table straight away, paddling a full length ball from Samuels to long leg. At 162-3 in 30 overs, with Bell the Boss in consummate control, the hosts were on course for a huge total.
Bell cantered to only his second ton in limited overs cricket with the landmark coming off just 95 balls. The hallmark of Bell's innings was sublime placement and unflinching courage. Moments before the batting powerplay, Morgan (21) chopped Samuels' 111 kph delivery back onto his stumps. Rampaul's figures suffered a severe pounding as Bell despatched him to various parts of the ground. Bell's monumental knock folded up when Dwayne Bravo hoodwinked him via a slower one, Denesh Ramdin gleefully accepting his fourth catch of the day. England had made 33 runs in the batting powerplay for the loss of Bell.
Tim Bresnan signaled his intentions with a strong arm jab past Bravo. However, a rocket throw from Dwayne Smith in the deep cut short his innings for 21. The West Indies prevented the Poms from exploding. Narine, no stranger to bowling at the death held his own and capped off his spell with figures of 1-47.
Shaking off his jittery start, Kieswetter (38*) whacked some useful fours. Broad (22*) launched the second maximum of the day with a agricultural swat over deep mid-wicket. England would have liked a few more lusty hits. Nevertheless, the home team finished at a formidable 288-6.
Chasing a daunting 289 to win, the West Indies openers struggled against the new ball. James Anderson and Steve Finn's mastery of swing spelt doom for Dwayne Smith and Lendl Simmons. Simmons paid the penalty for stagnant footwork and was bowled by Anderson in the 5th over. The news from the West Indies camp was that Darren Bravo had also joined the injury list. Denesh Ramdin, fresh off an unbeaten ton in the third test was bumped upto the No:3 slot. Smith, provided the kick-start the chase begged by scoring 14 off the following over. Smith unleashed his aggression and stamped his authority on the Poms. Ramdin was quite happy to turn over the strike and let Smith do the damage. The Barbados hulkster inaugurated his fifty via a flat six over square leg. The Caribbean Kings were suddenly in the driver's seat at 92-1 in 15 overs.
Cricket though would not allow itself to be so predictable. Soon, crowd favorite Tim Bresnan landed a double blow to get rid of both set batsmen Smith (56) and Ramdin (22). Bresnan had his tail up and worked up a good head of steam to push Sammy's soldiers onto the backseat. Bravo failed to fire and fell leg before to Finn for 8. The disastrous slide showed no signs of abating as Finn forced Pollard (3) back to the hutch with Morgan completing a flying catch. Much to the chagrin of the fans, the heavens opened up and rain held up play. At that stage of the contest the West Indies were 43 runs behind the Duckworth-Lewis par score.
After a one hour delay play finally resumed. Two overs were docked and the target was revised to 287 off 48 overs.
Marlon Samuels (30) produced a couple of lovely fours before he chipped Anderson to mid-wicket as West Indies' slide continued unabated. There was still no sign of Darren Bravo as Andre Russell strode out to bat. The allrounder lost his skipper shortly after as Sammy(11) was surprised by Graeme Swann's extra bounce and spooned the ball to extra-cover. With the visitors dead and buried at 155-7, Bravo came to the middle. The youngster though could manage only 8 runs, and the tail for once failed to provide any resistance as the West Indies were wiped out for a disappointing 172.
England will look to sustain the intensity and seal the short series when the two teams meet again in the 2nd ODI at the Oval on Tuesday, June 19th. Meanwhile, the West Indies will have to raise the bar to keep the series alive.
England: A Cook(c), I Bell, J Trott, R Bopara, E Morgan, C Kieswetter(wk), T Bresnan, S Broad, S Finn, G Swann, J Anderson
West Indies: L Simmons, D Smith, Darren Bravo, M Samuels, K Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, D Ramdin(wk), A Russell, D Sammy (c), R Rampaul, S Narine
England 288-6 (50 overs, 5.76 rpo)
I Bell 126(117) M Samuels 2-43
J Trott 42(66) S Narine 1-47
West Indies 172 all out (33.4 overs, 5.10 rpo)
D Smith 56(44) T Bresnan 4-34
M Samuels 30(30) G Swann 2-21
England won by 114 runs (D/L Method)
File Photograph Copyright: Barry Zee
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