North Sound, Antigua: West Indies defeated England by 15 runs in the first one-day international on Friday after the visitors squandered an excellent platform that had put them in position to take the lead in the three-match series. Replying to the home side's competitive total of 269 for six, England were restricted to 254 for six after cruising along merrily at 180 for two in the 37th over. (Scorecard)
Michael Lumb's fluent 106 on ODI debut, only the second England player after Dennis Amiss to achieve the feat, and an opening partnership of 96 with fellow first-timer Moeen Ali (44), seemed to ensure that most of the hard work was done in pursuit of a morale-boosting victory following the harrowing tour of Australia.
But just as in the West Indies innings, when the home side plundered 116 runs off the last ten overs, England lost their way in the home stretch, losing four wickets for 31 runs. "If you look at both innings, we were brilliant for 40 overs and then struggled," said England captain Stuart Broad.
"I wouldn't look too much at the batting. It was the last ten overs with the ball that really hurt us." (Also read: Pietersen and Prior in war of words)
Much of that English discomfort in the field in the final stages of the West Indies innings was caused by Darren Sammy. Coming to the crease after the fall of Lendl Simmons for 65 and a 108-run partnership with skipper Dwayne Bravo, the hosts were still labouring to get any momentum at 153 for five in the 40th over. But the former captain changed all that, bludgeoning his way to 61 off just 36 balls with five fours and four sixes as he and the man who replaced him at the helm cashed in on Broad's decision to return to the fast-medium bowlers at the end of the innings.
Bravo's unbeaten 87 off 91 balls (4 fours, 1 six) was also entertaining, the pair carting the England bowling to all parts of the huge Sir Vivian Richards ground in taking 116 runs off the hapless bowlers before Sammy fell to Tim Bresnan off the final ball. Despite taking three wickets, Bresman and fellow fast-medium bowler, Barbadian-born Chris Jordan, conceded 135 runs off a combined 19 overs.
That was in stark contrast to the economy and effectiveness of the slow bowling trio of James Tredwell, Ali and Joe Root. They exploited the helpful conditions in the early going -- Root opened the bowling with Broad -- so successfully that the West Indies were almost in ruins at 45 for four. Lumb, a member of England's World Twenty20-winning squad in the Caribbean in 2010, also took a liking to the faster stuff offered by the West Indies at the start of the run-chase.
In his first senior international match, Ali was also at ease and the pair of left-handers were on the verge of a century opening stand when Dwayne Smith removed Ali to a catch at long-on. Luke Wright fell cheaply but Root kept England ahead of the game, seeing Lumb to the three-figure landmark off 117 balls with seven fours and two sixes before the 34-year-old South African-born batsman gave Bravo a comfortable catch at cover off Ravi Rampaul.
That proved to be the turning point with the West Indies able to build pressure and take more wickets as the captain turned to his spinning trump-card. "We back our bowling group to defend 250-plus anytime," said Bravo. "Sunil Narine had five overs to bowl and those were key, and we had Ravi Rampaul still to come as our best finishing bowler."
Narine's mesmerising variations were too much for England to handle in the pressure situation, and reduced to 211 for six in the 43rd over, there were to be no heroics from Ravi Bopara in his 100th ODI or Bresnan to give England anything like a glimmer of hope at the end.