Different format, different opponents, same old story for England, who started their Twenty20 series against West Indies in Barbados with very different personnel but in precisely the same style with which they ended the Ashes, soundtracked by an embarrassing clatter of wickets.
The tourists lost first the toss and then their composure as they slumped to 49 for seven before Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid inspired something of a recovery but West Indies, powered by a suitably regal half-century from Brandon King, made their total of 103 appear suitably trifling and won by nine wickets with 17 balls remaining.
A quarter of the way through England’s innings 30 balls had been bowled, just five scoring shots played and four wickets lost. By the end of the powerplay they were 26 for four and Eoin Morgan had faced 11 deliveries for the score of one. When Sam Billings was stumped at the end of the seventh over England had lost 15 wickets for 95 runs in two formats and two continents – with Billings personally contributing two wickets and three runs to the long-distance collapse.
West Indies, bowled out for 55 when the teams met in Dubai at the Twenty20 World Cup in October, were never likely to feel any sympathy, their only disappointment being that a flurry of boundaries from Jordan and Rashid took the tourists past that total and carried England from the brink of humiliation to the sunlit uplands of triple figures.
The first over of the game ended with Sheldon Cottrell executing his familiar march-and-salute celebration after Jason Roy completely missed a full toss, lost his middle stump and set the tone. England’s opener had hit the previous ball for six, and the next player to score runs was also promptly dismissed, Tom Banton hitting Jason Holder down the ground for four before edging immediately to slip, where Nicholas Pooran took a fine low catch. Moeen Ali hit his first ball straight to backward point and England were 10 for three after two overs.
Morgan and James Vince seemed to have brought some semblance of normality to proceedings as the latter hit two fours and a top-edged six off Cottrell. But just as England’s fans, who made up the overwhelming majority of the Bridgetown crowd, might have sensed the crisis dissipating Vince cracked the last ball of the same Cottrell over straight to the fielder at cover, and the collapse continued.
There were many reasons for England’s failure: some early swing, some uneven bounce, some disciplined bowling and fine, error-free fielding. Jason Holder returned career-best figures of four for seven and was superb. But totals this low normally involve a little self-destruction and Liam Dawson provided the clearest case, pushing an Akeal Hosein delivery to Kieron Pollard, standing close at cover, and setting off for a single before slipping when inevitably told to turn around. Pollard returned the ball underarm for Shai Hope to complete the run-out.
England needed early wickets to have any hope of conjuring an unlikely victory, and got none. In no great hurry, Brandon King and Shai Hope guided West Indies to 50 without loss in the ninth over, precisely four overs quicker than England, who were of course seven down at the time.
They had a little luck along the way – Hope deflected a Saqib Mahmood delivery into the ground and just past his stumps and Dawson, making his first T20i appearance for a month shy of four years, threatened both batters in the ninth over, ending with a lovely delivery that beat King but cleared the stumps – but with little scoreboard pressure they relaxed and showed real quality.
But King was splendidly composed and hit some outstanding shots – a huge slog sweep off Rashid and a crisp cut off Tymal Mills stood out – as he powered his side home. With the second game of the series coming on Sunday night England have little time to brood on this performance, but as a great man nearly said, memories of their batting out of hell won’t be gone when the morning comes.