England XI 234 for 8 (Bairstow 86, Woakes 47*, Root 46) beat WICB President’s XI 233 (Hamilton 73, Cornwall 59, Stokes 3-35, Plunkett 3-44) by two wickets
Chris Woakes wasn’t the England allrounder who gained the most attention in the IPL auction, but he proved his value to England once again with a match-winning contribution in St Kitts.
England, set 234 to win, were reeling at 177 for 7 in the 40th over before Woakes calmed the situation with a run-a-ball innings of 47 not out. It was the third highest List A score of his career and saw England to a two-wicket victory with seven deliveries remaining. He had proved the pick of England’s bowlers, too, claiming 2 for 37 from nine well-controlled overs.
England were grateful for his contribution. With only Jake Ball, who had earlier been forced off the field with a knee injury, left to bat (England later confirmed that he would have batted if required), they were facing an embarrassing reverse against a modest-looking WICB President’s XI side hit by withdrawals with 55 required from the final 10 overs.
But Woakes added 35 for the eighth-wicket with Adil Rashid and then an unbroken 22 for the ninth with Liam Plunkett to help England squeak home. Despite taking just one run from the 48th over of the innings – 10 were required from the start of it – bowled by Kyle Myers, he laced Ronsford Beaton for four from the next over to all but end the contest. He had earlier driven Myers for a straight six and produced a couple of sweetly-timed drives through the covers.
But this was an unconvincing performance with the bat from England. With Sam Billings, caught off the shoulder of the bat by one that reared at him, again failing to take his opportunity at the top of the order, England were heavily reliant upon an innings of 86 from Jonny Bairstow to get them anywhere near their apparently modest target.
Bairstow, thrust into the unusual position of opener, responded with his highest List A score since August 2014 and looked in fine touch. But when he fell, failing to time an attempted paddle and spooning a simple catch to leg slip, it exposed the lack of contributions from the rest of the top order.
While Joe Root added 117 with Bairstow, Jos Buttler cut to point, Eoin Morgan missed a reverse-sweep and Ben Stokes was punished for being stuck in the crease when he was bowled for a second-ball duck. When Moeen Ali was beaten by some turn, it seemed England’s familiar nemesis – spin bowling – might be their undoing once more. But while Woakes may not be England’s most glamorous cricketer, he showed again what a reliable allrounder he has become with a match-winning contribution that revived memories of England’s tie against Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge in 2016.
To be fair to England, conditions appeared to become more difficult for batting as the day progressed. On the same pitch used for Saturday’s game, the ball both spun and appeared to stick in the pitch for the seamers as the match wore on. Chasing the sort of score that Jonathan Trott might have made look simple, they instead exposed a slight lack of sophistication by continuing to attempt to blast their way to success in conditions where accumulation was required. The pitches for the ODI series are expected to be similar.
“It was the sort of pitch that got tougher and tougher,” Paul Farbrace, England’s coach, said. “Cricket out here tends to be four quarters: the first 25 overs is a lot easier to bat than the last 25 overs. I don’t want to make excuses, but it got tougher and the ball stopped.
“But even so we made it a lot harder for ourselves than we needed to. If one bloke gets 130 not out you win the game comfortably.”
Earlier the President’s XI were grateful for a stand of 123 for the sixth-wicket between Jahmar Hamilton and Rahkeem Cornwall. Coming together with their side on 55 for 5, they counter-attacked attractively, with Rashid hit for a series of vast sixes.
Cornwall, in particular, is a fascinating cricketer. Standing at six feet, seven inches and carrying a significant amount of surplus weight – he looks as if he thinks of strength and conditioning coaches as a small snack between meals – he still manages to be a good striker of a ball and a more than decent offspinner. Despite his obvious mobility issues – he dropped Bairstow at slip on 46; perhaps a match-defining moment – he has bowled more overs than anyone in the regional four-day competition (and only two men have more wickets) and is a genuine contender for an international place.
Those two apart, the President’s XI batsmen struggled against an impressive display from England’s bowlers. Plunkett, learning from the first game, delivered a series of cross-seam deliveries that stuck in the surface and claimed two wickets with catches at leg gully, while Stokes also claimed three wickets as reward for much improved control.
When Root and Bairstow were ticking over in their century stand for England’s second wicket, it seemed victory would be straightforward. And had offspinner Andre McCarthy not been bizarrely withdrawn from the attack having just claimed two wickets in three balls, the President’s XI might have exploited England’s familiar weakness against spin. But Woakes held firm and ensures England head to Antigua on Tuesday with victories from both warm-up games.
It remains to be seen who lines up in that team. Ball is one obvious injury doubt – Chris Jordan and Sam Curran appear to be the leading candidates to replace him – while it also seems that Alex Hales, who joins up with the squad on Tuesday, will not be considered for the first game or two. That means that Billings is likely to remain as opener and Bairstow may rue is failure to make his excellent start here count. Jason Roy, rested here due to a bruised hand, is deemed fit to play.
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