10th over: West Indies 41-1 (Gayle 33, Hope 4) Archer restores order and makes Hope jump. Shades of Robin Smith, whose autobiography was launched with a dinner at this ground last night. The Judge has made a judicious choice of ghostwriter: our own Rob Smyth.
An email from James Walsh. “I second Peter Salmon’s emotion about the lack of a proper scoreboards in the grounds. I was at England v Bangladesh and felt really sorry for those without radios, who were deprived of the information you need to follow the glorious subtitles of the game.” I suspect you mean subtleties, though subtitles can be glorious too. “But at least they were made extremely aware of which specific car brand the ICC reckons we should hasten climate change with.” Great line.
9th over: West Indies 38-1 (Gayle 32, Hope 2) Gayle is even tucking into Woakes now – a pull for four, immediately followed by a drive for six! Woakes draws a nick from Hope, but it’s a leading edge that pops safely into the gully area. Hope has 2 off 18 balls; Gayle has 32 off 28, which means he’s hit 31 off the last 13. Just a little scary for England.
8th over: West Indies 26-1 (Gayle 21, Hope 1) Gayle is waiting for the short ones now – he pulls Archer for another ungainly four, then upper-cuts him for a single, when anybody else in the world would have run two. In other words, Gayle is himself again, which is ominous. Worse still, Jason Roy has tweaked his hamstring fielding that upper cut. James Vince makes an appearance as sub on his home ground.
7th over: West Indies 21-1 (Gayle 16, Hope 1) So Gayle survives, and the pundits reckon it was because Wood set off too late. I wouldn’t blame him – it was swirling, and he may not have seen it coming his way for that vital first split-second.
Dropped! Gayle (15) by Wood off Woakes
Gayle slogs Woakes, doesn’t middle it all, skims the sky. Mark Wood runs in from third man, reaches it, but can’t cling on. Agonising moment.
6th over: West Indies 19-1 (Gayle 15, Hope 1) Gayle middles one! No foot movement, just a straight biff as Archer bowls a fuller length for once. Next ball, knowing Archer will bang it in, he bludgeons a pull. When Gayle adds a single, Archer bounces back with a glorious ball to Hope, lifting and leaving him: a batsman with his eye in might have edged it. Then Hope does edge it, through the now-vacant third slip. And finally Gayle has to hurry to fend off a bouncer. He has 15 off 20 balls. Game on.
5th over: West Indies 8-1 (Gayle 5, Hope 0) Shai Hope maintains West Indies’ policy of just trying to survive, and Woakes continues joining the dots – 16 out of a possible 18 so far. His figures are 3-2-2-1: the stuff of fantasy, or Jimmy Anderson.
4th over: West Indies 8-1 (Gayle 5, Hope 0) Archer makes Gayle jump with another lifter, brushing his shoulder. Gayle gets the first four of the day but it’s streaky, off the inside edge as he plays a wonky cut with a 45-degree bat. He has already faced 16 balls, but if he stays in, he will make that up later.
3rd over: West Indies 4-1 (Gayle 1, Hope 0) Things are so tough that Gayle has resorted to taking a quick single. He pushes Woakes to mid-off and, for once in his life, runs. And he may be glad he did as Woakes pulls out a yorker to castle Lewis off his pad.
Wicket!! Lewis b Woakes 2 (West Indies 4-1)
First blood to Woakes! With a yorker, of all things.
2nd over: West Indies 2-0 (Gayle 0, Lewis 1) Jofra Archer, playing against the team he could easily have played for, starts with a wide. He recovers instantly, beating Evin Lewis with a lifter. The first run off the bat comes as Lewis fends another lifter into a gap on the leg side. A third lifter goes rip-snorting past Gayle’s dreadlocks, and that’s another fine over. This first half-hour may be like the start of a Test match, all about survival.
1st over: West Indies 0-0 (Gayle 0, Lewis 0) Chris Woakes gets things moving by not just bowling a maiden but beating Gayle outside off, twice. That is “an absolutely stunning first over”, Nasser Hussain reckons. Morgan, sniffing a wicket, starts with three slips.
A quick tip for England from Vic Lanser. “Morgan should start with Archer and, yes, Adil Rashid. It will force Gayle to provide his own power for those boundaries, and Rashid has a googly which will still work on a damp pitch.”
A cricket lover makes a plea to the ICC. “Quick point about scoreboards before things get too exciting,” says Peter Salmon. “I’ve been to Australia’s matches against India (at the Oval) and Pakistan (Taunton). The scoreboards had the batsmen’s scores, sure, but rarely anything about balls faced, no fall-of-wicket scores, extras, etc. But most annoying was that a fair whack of each board was taken up with how many overs each bowler had bowled – not their figures anywhere. At Taunton they didn’t even say their shirt numbers, so all we knew (all innings) was Bowler 3 had bowled 6 overs for instance – you’d need a chart to cross-reference who this was. It was a genuine surprise to us to find out Mohammad Amir had taken 5/30. And the replay screens, between endless Air Guitar and Going Large, at no stage showed a scorecard.
“I know the current admin believes bowlers are simply there for batsmen to hit over the boundary, but I reckon at most twice an innings I wonder who has bowled how many overs. I can’t help feeling that even for these millions of people who have no interest in cricket who the ICC is designing the tournament for, there may be some interest in seeing who’s done what occasionally.”
Is Morgan right to bowl first? He usually prefers to chase, he’s surely right that the pitch could be juicy this morning, and there are “spots of rain” according to Sky. But, in this World Cup, fortune favours the side batting first – if you make 250 in the morning, you win; if you make 250 after lunch, you lose. So the question is, can West Indies see off Archer and Woakes and make their way to 250? So much hinges on Gayle.
A good question from Ian Forth. “In answer to Krish’s point [9:57], are there any supporters other than Australia’s (1995-2005) and Man Utd’s (1995-2015) who don’t assume they will lose any match in which they are favourites, because ‘that’s what we do’.” Ha. Maybe India’s, today? And all American teams, always?
Teams: Windies ring the changes
England are unchanged, so Moeen Ali misses out and Mark Wood plays through the pain of a sore ankle. West Indies make three changes, bringing back Evin Lewis and Andre Russell, and giving Shannon Gabriel his first outing.
Toss: England bowl first
Interesting. Morgan thinks there’ll be “a little bit of moisture” in the pitch, because it’s been covered.
“On the other hand,” says Krish on Twitter, picking up on my reasons why England should win (9:46), “Why will England lose? Because they are England.” It’s a fair cop. They haven’t had a decent World Cup since 1992.
Why England should win
1 They’re at home.
2 They’ve beaten West Indies in 11 of their last 13 meetings in this format.
3 They’ve got the world’s leading opening pair – Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.
4 They’ve got the world’s fastest finisher – Jos Buttler.
5 They’ve got the world’s shrewdest, calmest, iciest captain – Eoin Morgan.
Preamble: this is big
Morning everyone and welcome to a rarity in contemporary sport: a contest that has been under-hyped. England v West Indies in Southampton is the most significant match of the World Cup so far.
Why? Because, on present form, England are lying fourth and West Indies fifth. They’re behind India, New Zealand and Australia, the first two of whom are unbeaten, the last beaten only by the first. So today is as close as we’ve come to a shoot-out for the semi-finals. It’s The Gunfight at the Hampshire Corral.
Of course, things can still change afterwards. If England lose today, they could dig themselves out of the hole by winning two of their last three matches, which happen to be against Australia, India and New Zealand. That’ll be like playing three quarter-finals in a row, which will leave them either whimpering in the corner or nicely sharpened for the semis. If West Indies lose today, on top of blowing a good chance to beat Australia, they’ll need to beat New Zealand and India as well as the smaller fry.
This match is a rarity for another reason too: it has every chance of not being washed out. According to the Met Office, there’s only a 10pc chance of rain in each hour till 3pm, when – at the risk of straying into the realms of fantasy – the sun is due to come out.