England went into their first Super Eights game of the World T20 with high hopes of beating a West Indies side that has recently been in transition. But with Chris Gayle leading the way with some big hits in the power-play, the Carribean out-fit proved far too good for the reigning champions.
Stuart Broad's side were immediately put under pressure and they did not find a break-through until the eleventh over when their opponents had already passed the 100-run mark. Chris Gayle hit some meaty blows at the beginning as he blitzed 58 off just 35 balls including 4 sixes.
After Gayle's dismissal it was young, unknown quantity Johnson Charles who took centre stage. The 23-year-old smashed 84 from just 56 balls with 10 fours and 3 sixes. He started slowly as he faced too many dot balls and scored just 21 from his first 24 balls. However after that he exploded into life and hammered boundary after boundary as he took just 35 deliveries for his last 63 runs.
Charles was given a life though when, on 39, he hit Jade Dernbach high into the night sky and Steven Finn made a complete hash of the chance. Incredibly Finn was put under the spotlight again straight away, as from the very next ball he did take a very similar chance to dismiss Gayle.
England's two spinners seemed slightly off-colour on a very good batting track as the West Indies batsmen took them apart with consummate ease. Swann took just one wicket from four overs at nine runs per over while Samit Patel bowled three wicket-less overs for 34 runs.
The West Indies ended with a big over to set England a more than challenging target of 180 from 20 overs at exactly nine runs per over. The England chase got off to the worst possible start as wicket-keeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter top-edged an ugly slog off the second ball of the innings and was caught by Kieron Pollard off the bowling of Ravi Rampaul. Rampaul then dismissed Luke Wright for a golden duck as he nicked to a gleeful Chris Gayle at slip.
At 0-2 after one over it was always going to be an up-hill climb but they did not do themselves any favours as they laboured to 55-3 at the half-way stage. Jonny Bairstow scored a pain-staking 18 from 29 balls before holing out to long-on off the bowling of Gayle. Eoin Morgan launched an incredible attack as he smashed 71* off 36 balls but it was always going to be a bridge too far for the defending champions and they lost by 15 runs.
There will be an inquest into why and how England managed to fall short of the West Indies, but in truth, they were out-manoeuvred in every area of the game. Their fielding was not bad, but not up to the standard of Darren Sammy's team. The athleticism of the likes of Pollard and Russell was nothing short of remarkable. Pollard took a stunning catch to get rid of Bairstow and Andre Russell produced one magnificent stop to deny Morgan a six.
The only positive for Flower and co. will be the way that Eoin Morgan batted as he took apart the West Indies attack. England's bowlers were not poor, but collectively were not great, although to be fair it was a very flat surface. Stuart Broad bowled well, as did Steven Finn, but the rest were all expensive. It is starting to become confusing for an England fan as to why Samit Patel is in the team as his left-arm spin is clearly not good enough and he hardly ever gets a chance to bat.
Even though this has been said so many times before it has to be said again: England really miss Kevin Pietersen. The first six overs of their innings lost England the game as they scored just 29 runs. Alex Hales played very well but at no point did he look as though he was going to do something extraordinary as he cruised to a solid 68 from 51 balls. His problem was that he lost his fluency when he started to try to hit the big shots.
Hales should come good but the world number one team's top order does look very vulnerable without Pietersen. Morgan could fill the role if pushed up to number four in the order, although that is by no means the main problem that England face. They really miss a power hitter and Jonny Bairstow looks to be the nearest thing to that, although today he really struggled under the pressure.
England will need to up their game significantly in the next two matches as they will most likely have to win both to progress to the semi-finals. Sri Lanka are an excellent team, especially on home soil, while New Zealand looked very good today, despite the super over defeat. In the following games England need their big players to step up to the plate; the likes of Luke Wright, Graeme Swann and Jade Dernbach.