A blistering Evin Lewis knock was not enough to prevent England from securing a third win of the five-match One Day International series, overcoming the West Indies by six runs on the DLS method at The Oval.
Remarkable Lewis showcases his talents
Lewis smashed 176* before he was forced to retire hurt, and having been set 357 to win, the hero of Sunday Moeen Ali hit 48 off 25 deliveries to take his side over the required total when the rain came.
Having elected to field Eoin Morgan’s team made the perfect start in South London, reducing their opponents to 33-3, Chris Woakes (3-71) the tormentor-in-chief, forcing Chris Gayle (2) to edge to slip, Shai Hope (11) to feather an edge behind and trapping Marlon Samuels (1) plumb in front all within the first seven overs.
Jason Mohammed (46) and Lewis rebuilt the innings well though, the latter displaying a fine array of punchy back-foot shots and classy drives; the two adding 117 onto the total during their time together, and took their side to a much stronger position than when they had entered the crease.
After Mohammed was caught behind cutting off Adil Rashid (1-67) Lewis was accompanied by captain Jason Holder (77), and it was from here that the tourists began to cut loose in their quest for a challenging total.
Ruthlessly capitalising upon short Liam Plunkett (1-67) and over-pitched Moeen deliveries, the left-handed Lewis brought up three figures in 94 balls, yet required only a further 26 balls to reach his first ODI 150.
Alongside Holder the two accelerated rapidly towards an ever-imposing score, however Lewis’ injury halted momentum at exactly the wrong time for his side, just as the two batsmen were looking fully in control of the English bowling.
Jabbing his bat down on a Jake Ball (0-68) yorker the ball ricocheted off the Trinidadian’s bat to rocket into his right ankle, flooring the 25-year-old instantly. After a period of treatment on the field, he was stretchered off to a standing ovation before having an X-ray in hospital, which has since revealed a hairline fracture of the bone.
Some lusty blows from Holder - who was caught by Sam Billings off Plunkett from the last ball of the innings - and new man Rovman Powell (28*) saw the Caribbean team exceed 350, and with the well-documented exclusion of Ben Stokes and Alex Hales, one which appeared extremely healthy against a depleted England batting line-up.
Magic Moeen once again saves the day
With Hales otherwise-engaged in legal proceedings in Bristol, the recalled Jason Roy fully capitalised upon his opportunity at the top of the order to get his side off to a flying start.
Demonstrating extreme power on his home ground, the 27-year-old produced a show of extreme power to blitz eleven fours and two sixes in his 66-ball knock of 84, putting on 126 in 17.4 overs with opening partner Jonny Bairstow to set a perfect platform for the chase.
Removed in an uncharacteristic manner for the style of his innings, edging behind to Hope after attempting to deftly run an Alzarri Joseph (5-56) ball down to third man, Roy produced his highest ODI score of the year to provide the selectors with a headache for Hales’ return to selection for the Friday’s final game of the series.
Joseph also accounted for the remaining batsmen of the top four, Bairstow and Joe Root (14) falling in the same manner as Roy before Morgan (19) was caught and bowled. When Billings was brilliantly held by a diving Gayle at slip, to present 20-year-old Joseph with his fifth, the pressure was beginning to pile upon the home team’s batting line-up.
With the weather also threatening to disrupt and the required DLS score way off, Buttler and Moeen then stepped up to take their side above the required rate - albeit only just.
Clearly buoyed by his dazzling display with bat-in-hand three days ago, Moeen led the counterattack with a series of lusty leg-side blows and flashing off-side drives, putting on 77 with Lancashire wicketkeeper Buttler.
Having hit the final ball of the 35th over through the covers to the boundary - and, crucially, gone ahead of the required score at that stage - only one more ball was possible before the umpires took the players off.
With an unassailable lead heading to the Ageas Bowl, the emphasis for the tourists will be to add some respectability to the score. As for England, having suffered a turbulent few days off the field, they will be delighted that matters in the West Country did not distract the team from producing a series-clinching victory - and will sincerely hope that that continues onto the match in Southampton.