T20 World Cup: England show they are title contenders with statement win over West Indies in Saint Lucia | Cricket News

England were so close to being out of this T20 World Cup.

When Australia required 89 from seven overs against Scotland in St Lucia on Sunday – in a game England needed their Ashes rivals to win or they would be eliminated – things looked bleak.

But any fanciful notion that Australia would plot to knock England out was put to bed as a raft of boundaries and a crucial dropped catch from Scotland’s Chris Sole saw the 2021 champions to victory and ensured the 2022 champions would join them in the Super 8s.

Score summary – West Indies vs England

West Indies 180-4 in 20 overs: Johnson Charles (38 off 34 balls), Rovman Powell (36 off 17), Nicholas Pooran (36 off 32); Adil Rashid (1-21), Moeen Ali (1-15)

England 181-2 in 17.3 overs: Phil Salt (87no off 47), Jonny Bairstow (48no off 26), Jos Buttler (25 off 22); Roston Chase (1-19)

Now you sense there is a real chance England and Australia could meet in the knockout stages as from a somewhat soggy and occasionally sloppy start to their trophy defence, Jos Buttler’s side look like title contenders once again.

The clinical win over West Indies proved that.

England held West Indies to 180-4, thanks chiefly to Adil Rashid and Jofra Archer conceding only six runs combined across the 16th and 17th overs, while Phil Salt then cracked 30 runs in the 16th over of the chase, hitting each of Romario Shepherd’s deliveries for four or six.

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Salt hit six boundaries in an incredible 30-run over as England began their T20 World Cup Super 8s campaign with victory

Salt’s assault, plus a Jonny Bairstow blitz of 48 not out from 26 balls, took England home with more than two overs to spare, lifting both their net run-rate and the belief that they could become the first side to win this competition twice in a row.

Nothing can be taken for granted in T20 but with Super 8 matches against a South Africa side who have scraped over the line in almost all of the games so far despite winning five from five, and USA to come, England will be confident of qualifying for the semi-finals.

Then Australia – the favourites, along with India, to advance from the other Super 8s pool – may really be wishing they had dumped them out…

T20 World Cup Super 8s Group 2 - after Engand vs West Indies
England are the early leaders in T20 World Cup Super 8s Group 2

A tale of the 16th overs

The 16th overs of West Indies and England’s respective innings could not have been more contrasting. They were surely where the game was won and lost.

West Indies scored only four runs in theirs and lost set batter Nicholas Pooran – a man who could have done all sorts of damage in the final stages – as Archer frequently beat the left-hander’s flashing blade with full and wide deliveries outside off stump and then clipped the bat off the final ball as Pooran edged through to Buttler.

England's Jofra Archer and Jonny Bairstow (Associated Press)
England’s Jofra Archer bowled a crucial 16th over, conceding just four funs and dismissing Nicholas Pooran

Archer and Rashid’s excellence – the latter only shipped two runs in the 17th over – meant the hosts were limited to just 43 runs across the final five overs of their innings, and England then did not need the last 2.5 overs of theirs as they romped to victory in Gros Islet.

Once again the 16th over proved vital as Salt (87no off 47 balls) drove, lofted, ramped and pulled six boundaries on the trot – three fours and three sixes – to trim the requirement from a manageable, but not easy, 40 off 30 balls to a routine 24 off 10. Game over.

Salt – who now averages 68.28 against West Indies in T20 internationals after smoking successive hundreds against them in a pre-Christmas series in the Caribbean – said afterwards: “That was my time to pull the trigger.

“In the back of my head I’d decided, but I didn’t vocalise it to Jonny [Bairstow] because I didn’t want him to say no. [I thought I could take] good, calculated risks at one of the seamers. The first sniff I got, I had to take that chance.”

England's Phil Salt (Associated Press)
Salt smashed three sixes and as many fours in the 16th over of England’s successful run chase

The opener added: “To come here and play like that against a very strong side, who are riding a wave in their own conditions, with a home crowd, is a great feeling.

“It’s been very stop-start tournament for us. We had a hiccup against Australia, a rain-out against Scotland, a really topsy-turvy start. But in tournaments you need confidence and momentum at the right time. To get a win against the hosts gives us a first push in that direction.”

Bairstow stars again after being questioned

Bairstow gave England’s innings fresh impetus after it had stalled a little following the end of an opening stand of 67 between Salt and Buttler.

West Indies would have felt back in the game when the ask for England was 70 from the final 42 balls, but Bairstow began Alzarri Joseph’s 14th over with a six over midwicket and ramp over wicketkeeper Pooran for four.

His three boundaries in a row of Akeal Hosein in the following over put England firmly back on track, before he watched from the other end as Salt smoked Shepherd all over the park.

Bairstow’s final act was to pull Joseph for the match-clinching single to midwicket, taking his side home with 15 balls to spare and his stand with Salt to an unbroken 97 from 44 balls.

England's Jonny Bairstow (Associated Press)
Jonny Bairstow added impetus to England’s run chase

Bairstow’s place in the order, even the XI, had been called into question after a scratchy outing of seven from 13 balls in the first-round defeat to Australia.

But he kept his place – Will Jacks the man to make way for Sam Curran – and has since repaid that faith with a crunching 31 off 18 balls against Namibia and now his key cameo versus West Indies.

That response should come as no surprise, with Bairstow making a career out of firing when he feels he is being questioned. Not that there had been any doubt from within the dressing room, with Buttler saying of his team-mate: “He’s a class player and has been for a really long time. You just keep backing class players.

“He hasn’t had many opportunities but today was a really impressive innings: a mature, senior player’s innings with a lot of power. He scored at a great lick when the game was in the balance.”

Rashid ‘England’s most important player’

Salt and Bairstow will hog the headlines, while Archer will rightly get props for his economic and wicket-taking 16th over.

But Buttler was quick to insist that leg-spinner Rashid remains England’s key man: “We keep saying it, but he is our most important player. He has been for a really long time. He has so much variation, so much threat. He takes wickets but also restricts runs.”

England's Adil Rashid at the T20 World Cup (Associated Press)
England leg-spinner Adil Rashid bagged figures of 1-21 from four overs in St Lucia

Rashid did not hoover up wickets versus West Indies – Andre Russell his sole victim, in that two-run 17th over – but his economy rate was 5.25, he bowled 10 dot balls out of 24, and only went for one boundary.

As so often in the past, England were grateful for his wizardry and with Rashid among a number of players in form, this once-flagging title defence is back on. Back on big time.

Catch every match from the T20 World Cup, including the final in Barbados on Saturday June 29, live on Sky Sports.

What’s next?

England stay in St Lucia to play South Africa on Friday (3.30pm UK and Ireland), while West Indies travel to Barbados to take on USA on Saturday (1.30am).

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