LONDON: England captain Alastair Cook led his side to a series-clinching eight-wicket win over the West Indies in the second one-day international (ODI) with an impressive hundred at The Oval here on Tuesday.
England, set 239, finished on 239 for two with five overs left after man-of-the-match Cook made 112 and shared stands of 122 and 81 with Ian Bell (53) and Jonathan Trott (43 not out) respectively.
Victory gave England an unassailable 2-0 lead in this three-match series and was their sixth successive victory at this level after a 4-0 clean sweep of Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in February.
Significantly it was also the sixth straight ODI match where an England opener had made a hundred, with three of those belonging to Cook.
Earlier, Dwayne Bravo's 77 had been the cornerstone of West Indies' 238 for nine, an innings where Chris Gayle marked his return to international cricket with a rapid fifty.
But Gayle's exit sparked a match-turning collapse that saw four wickets lost for 16 runs.
“It was a really good win under some tricky circumstances,” said Cook.
“The bowlers set it up well and we came through. As a bowler, you've got to keep plugging away against Chris Gayle and hope he makes a mistake.”
Left-handed opener Cook, reflecting on his innings, added: “It's nice to score some runs. I haven't hit the ball as well as I'd like this summer, so to get a hundred in a match-winning performance is good.”
West Indies, beaten 2-0 in the preceding three-Test series by England, came into this leg of the tour insisting one-day cricket was their stronger suit.
But this crushing loss followed a 114-run thrashing, albeit under the Duckworth/Lewis method, in the first ODI at Southampton on Saturday.
“We didn't score enough runs,” said West Indies captain Darren Sammy. “At the end of the day you need runs on the board to defend.
“We wanted 280, we know the Oval wicket is a good one. We know cricket isn't played on paper, it's played out in the middle. You have to go out and perform and we haven't done that.”
Cook and Bell – who made 126 at Southampton – were rarely troubled.
But just when it looked the pair would not be parted, Bell chipped a slower ball from Sammy to Gayle in the covers.
Cook had just hit Sammy for the only six of his innings when next ball he too holed out off the medium-pacer to end a 120-ball stay featuring 13 fours.
It was the 27-year-old Cook's fifth century in 47 matches at this level and fourth as captain.
Gayle's 53 took just 51 balls, with five sixes and three fours, in what was the Jamaica left-hander's first international match in 15 months after a dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board.
Having missed the series opener with a shin injury, it was not long before the 32-year-old Gayle – in for the injured Darren Bravo – resumed normal service after Cook won the toss and fielded.
First change Tim Bresnan was slammed for 18 in an over as Gayle hit three sixes, culminating with a huge blow onto the roof of the Bedser stand.
But Gayle exited hen he pushed tentatively at off-spinner Graeme Swann and New Zealand umpire Tony Hill, eventually, gave him out in response to a vehement lbw appeal.
Gayle immediately reviewed the decision and while replays indicated an inside edge, there was no clear evidence as to whether the ball had hit his bat, rather than the pad, first and Hill's verdict was upheld.
“When it's tight call, it normally goes to the batter but that wasn't the case today,” said Gayle.
Although Bravo and Kieron Pollard (41) shared a fifth-wicket stand of exactly 100, West Indies' total always looked inadequate on a good batting pitch.
Bravo's 82-ball innings, featuring two sixes and eight fours, ended when he lofted James Anderson to Ravi Bopara at extra-cover.
Before play started a minute's silence was held in memory of Surrey batsman Tom Maynard, who died on Monday aged 23.
This series concludes in Leeds on Friday.