Contrasting centuries by Jason Roy and Joe Root paced England to a comfortable six-wicket victory over the West Indies with their record one-day international run chase in a high-scoring opening game of a five-match series in Barbados on Wednesday.
Set what looked a daunting target after Chris Gayle’s 24th ODI hundred anchored the home side to 360-8, Roy blazed 123 off 85 balls at the top of the order while Root cruised to a comparatively sedate 102 off 97 deliveries to take help the tourists reach their target with eight balls to spare.
In achieving the highest-ever ODI run chase in the Caribbean and the third-highest overall, England underlined their status as the top-ranked team in this format of the game and will be brimful of batting confidence heading into the second match at the same venue on Friday.
Fresh from a hundred in the lone warm-up match at the weekend, Roy was at his most ruthless against the hosts who missed key fast bowler Kemar Roach.
The ‘man of the series’ with 18 wickets as the West Indies surprised England 2-1 to reclaim the Wisden Trophy in the preceding Test duel, Roach has been ruled out of the entire ODI series due to early signs of what could develop into a stress fracture of the lower back.
Roy set the pace in racing to a hundred off just 65 balls –- the fastest-ever in ODIs in the Caribbean –- and dominated an opening stand of 91 with Jonny Bairstow.
He maintained the charge through a 114-run second-wicket partnership with Root and by the time he fell in the 27th over to leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, England were well on course.
Root, the Test captain who finally came good with a hundred in the last innings of the three-match series in St Lucia just over a week earlier, also got to three figures against the University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s XI last Sunday and tapped into that rich vein of form once more.
He put on 116 for the third wicket in 16 overs with Eoin Morgan and although the ODI skipper departed to fast bowler Oshane Thomas with victory in sight, there would be no serious alarms for England on the way to victory, although Root fell with the scores level attempting the winning hit off West Indies captain Jason Holder.
“I was particularly happy with the calm way we went about all aspects of this match,” Morgan said.
“Our bowlers did very well at the end of the West Indies innings when it looked as if they would get up to 380, and when we batted, you really can’t look past that start we got. It made the job so much easier.”
Gayle delights home crowd
Earlier, Gayle lit up the Kensington Oval with another display of power-hitting.
Playing his first ODI since the home series against Bangladesh last July and having announced that the upcoming World Cup will be his international farewell in the format, the big-hitting left-hander signalled his intentions for a lengthy grand finale with an innings of 135 off 129 balls with 12 sixes and three fours.
His tally of maximums dominated an innings in which 23 sixes were struck, a new record for an ODI innings.
Despite conceding 34 runs off his final two overs, leg-spinner Rashid played an important role together with Stokes in limiting the West Indies progress over the final 15 overs.
Stokes returned the best figures of three for 37, including the important wicket of Gayle in the 47th over, dragging a full-length delivery onto his stumps.
Rashid claimed three for 74, making important breakthroughs at the other end when the West Indies needed to press on the accelerator.
England paid dearly for Roy dropping Gayle at point off seamer Liam Plunkett when the former West Indies captain was on just nine.
“We made life very difficult for ourselves, and especially our bowlers, by missing too many chances,” said Holder.
“You can’t give quality players so many opportunities and expect to be competing at the end.”