Marlon Samuels, the star when the Caribbean side defeated Sri Lanka in the final of the last World T20 in Colombo 17 months ago, led the home team’s effort with an unbeaten 69 as the West Indies totalled a competitive 170 for three yesterday.
Samuels finished off a good afternoon’s work in front of a celebratory full house with two wickets to seal the man of the match award.
Wrist-spinner Samuel Badree put the tourists on the back foot early on with three wickets and although all-rounders Tim Bresnan (47 not out) and Ravi Bopara (42) made useful contributions, England were always struggling to keep up with the required rate and were restricted to 143 for nine.
“We didn’t get going today but that’s something that can happen in Twenty20 cricket, especially when you’re chasing a decent score,” said England captain Stuart Broad.
“It’s certainly not something to panic about.”
Broad did suggest however that he is likely to miss the remaining two matches of the series on Tuesday and Thursday because of tendonitis in his knee.
For the West Indies, the celebrations over a victory that sends a message to all challengers for their World T20 title in Bangladesh later in the month would have been tempered by concerns over the fitness of ace spinners Sunil Narine and Badree.
Narine only bowled two overs and left the field after jarring his right knee trying to make a save on the boundary while Badree, who claimed three for 17 off his allotted four overs, injured the fingers of his bowling hand attempting to take a return catch just before completing his spell.
“He’ll be going for a scan this evening so hopefully he’ll be okay,” said West Indies captain Darren Sammy in commenting on Narine’s injury.
“We’re already without Kieron Pollard so we can’t afford to lose another key player so close to the World Cup.”
Injury has also limited Chris Gayle’s appearances for the West Indies over the past two months, but he returned on Sunday, contributing a typically robust 43.
However, it was his opening partner Dwayne Smith who stole the show at the very start, hoisting the first delivery of the match off Broad out of the ground and taking 19 runs off that opening over.
Smith eventually was first to go for 27, one of two wickets for Bopara who, together with the spinner James Tredwell, were England’s best bowlers.
Samuels’ 46-ball innings (10 fours, 1 six) was not without moments of good fortune.
Missed on 37 by a leaping Eoin Morgan at backward-point off Broad, he had even greater luck when Tredwell dropped a straightforward chance at extra-cover off Jade Dernbach at the start of the 18th over.
As if to rub salt in England wounds, the Jamaican right-hander smashed the next five deliveries for boundaries.