Take a bow Moeen Ali! England’s stand-in skipper stood up and produced when it really mattered to keep the Twenty20 international series well and truly alive.
Ali smashed an imperious 68 from just 28 balls as England stormed to an impressive 34 runs victory in Barbados to level the series at 2-2. The experienced all-rounder also chipped in with two vital wickets as the Windies crumbled, chasing England’s 193-6.
That means the five-game series will now be decided in the early hours of tomorrow morning in the final T20 clash between the two sides. But it was Ali’s fine display which made sure the series will go down to the wire at the Kensington Oval.
Beaten in their last outing, England knew they needed to win to make sure they had any chance of winning the series. Iit was Ali, with regular captain Eoin Morgan out injured, who timed his performance to perfection.
England lost the toss, but it mattered not as Ali went about dismantling the West Indies pace attack in style. The highlight of which had to be smashing three successive off Jason Holder, much to the delight of an animated crowd.
It was opener Jason Roy who first laid the platform for Ali to come in and do his damage. His 34-ball 50 was the start England were desperate for. Roy smashed three sixes in his superb 52 from 42 balls as England recovered from the early loss of Tom Banton to reach 93-2 from 11.3 overs.
With wickets in the shed, James Vince contributed 34 from 26 balls and, when Roy was dismissed, Ali took charge of proceedings with his welcome fireworks. The left-hander launched an incredible seven sixes into the crowd in an action-packed 41-minute innings which delighted England’s supporters.
Jason Livingstone and Sam Billings both hit sixes at the death, with England hitting a staggering 15 in all in their innings. Opening bowler Jason Holder finished with three wickets, but they were costly at 44 runs, with most of the West Indies bowlers having struggled to contain England’s big-hitting.Only skipper Kieron Pollard, with an economical 1-23 from his four overs, managed to keep some sort of lid on the run-rate.
But England only finished seven runs shy of 200 from their allotted 120 balls – and they still had four wickets to spare.
Pollard was right when he admitted afterwards: “The back end of England's innings is where we let it go a bit.
"It only takes one over of big hits. We thought 170 was chaseable, but they got to 190.”
However, having posted 224 to beat England in the last T20 on Wednesday, Pollard had understandably been confident his team could chase down the total – and win the series with a game to spare.
The West Indies got off to a flyer in their response and Kyle Mayers looked like he could inspire them to victory. But Ali accounted for him, caught by Chris Jordan for an eye-watering 40 from just 23 balls.
The home side were 64-1 from only 7.2 over at that stage, with England left with plenty to do.
Ali once again did the business, dismissing opener Brandon King for 26, the first of three wickets for 33 runs which saw the hosts falter in their chase.
Holder’s cameo of 36 from 24 balls gave some hope, but England bowled tightly – and more importantly cleverly – to contain their opponents.
"I thought we were good in all areas, we were brilliant,” reflected a delighted Ali.
"[But] the death bowling was fantastic and we will take confidence from that."
Indeed it was as Reece Topley once again showed his skills with 1-21 from his four overs, while spinner Adil Rashed chipped in with a wicket and went for only 28 runs in his solid spell.
“We screwed up in the middle of our innings, not losing wickets but being a little slow,” admitted a perplexed Pollard.
England’s win sets up the final match perfectly. Ali will be hoping he can inspire his side to a coveted series win.
England 193-6 (Ali 63, Roy 52, Vince 34, Holder 3-44)
West Indies 159-5 (Mayers 40, Holder 36, Ali 2-28)
England won by 34 runs
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