ENGLAND opener Phil Salt hits a six against West Indies during the Super Eight match at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium.—AFP
ENGLAND opener Phil Salt hits a six against West Indies during the Super Eight match at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium.—AFP

GROS ISLET: Defending champions England brushed aside their struggles in the opening phase of the Twenty20 World Cup with an eight-wicket victory over the previously unbeaten West Indies in their Super Eight opener at the Daren Sammy National Stadium in St Lucia on Wednesday.

England’s bowlers restricted West Indies to 180-4 on the same pitch where the co-hosts had scored 218 against Afghanistan on Monday before opener Phil Salt led the way with 87 from 47 balls as the batters got the job done inside 18 overs.

Having squeaked into the second stage on net run rate, England will take a huge boost of confidence from beating one of the in-form teams at the tournament to top Group 2 with South Africa, who they meet at the same ground on Friday.

“I thought we did really well to restrict such a powerful batting lineup,” said England captain Jos Buttler. “It’s still a decent score and you have to play well to chase them down. But I thought we were very smart with the bat.”

The meeting of the only two teams to have won the T20 World Cup twice was expected to be a run-fest and much of the credit for the win will go to the England bowlers for preventing the big-hitting locals from cutting loose.

Having won the toss and elected to field, they served up 51 dot balls and took regular wickets in the second half of the innings to prevent any of the West Indies batters from reaching a half century.

“I think we left 15-20 runs out there as a batting group (and) we could have give a better display with the ball,” West Indies skipper Rovman Powell said. “Credit has to be given to England bowling unit, you can see they have killer plans and the execution was good.”

A groin injury ended opener Brandon King’s night on 23 but West Indies would still have been confident of a big score when they reached the halfway point of their innings on 82 without loss.

Just when they would have been looking to accelerate, however, the other opener, Johnson Charles, fell into a trap and holed out in the deep for 38 off the bowling of Moeen Ali.

Danger man Nicholas Pooran and Powell both scored 36 before being dismissed in successive overs and Andre Russell followed for one in the next over to leave West Indies on 143-4 in the 17th over.

West Indies captain Powell threatened to cut loose after blasting five sixes in a quickfire 36 off just 17 deliveries.

But after bludgeoning Liam Livingstone for three sixes in the 15th over, the English bowler got his revenge with the final delivery, tempting Powell into a top edge which was snagged by Mark Wood at short third man.

Sherfane Rutherford (28 not out) and Romario Shepherd put on another 37 runs but England will have been confident that it was a reachable target, particularly after Salt and Buttler put on 67 for the first wicket.

Buttler was trapped in front by Roston Chase’s off-spin for 25 but Salt kept the runs ticking over before he was joined by Jonny Bairstow.

Salt let Bairstow (48 not out) take the strike initially but clubbed 30 off Shepherd in the 16th over with three sixes and three fours to all but finish the chase.

“There are a lot of different factors that can affect an innings,” Salt said. “There was a period where I did not face a lot of balls, but important to stick around and carry on.

“Jonny was fantastic, and took pressure off me by taking calculated risks. I couldn’t be happier as a team-mate.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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