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Open with Salt, time for Topley: 4 England lessons from latest West Indies loss

England have serious work to do before launching their defence of the T20 World Cup as their white-ball woes continue 

This was a change of format but the same old result as England’s woeful white-ball winter continued with a four-wicket defeat in the opening T20 international against the West Indies in Barbados.

The hosts comfortably reached their target of 172 with 11 balls to spare at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday night to follow up their 2-1 ODI series victory against Jos Buttler’s team that was sealed at the same venue last weekend.

Andre Russell, the 35-year-old Jamaican journeyman playing his first international in more than two years, proved the match winner as he followed up a haul of three for 19 with the ball with 29 off 14 deliveries to close out the chase.

England were not helped by a collapse that saw them reined in after smashing 77 without loss from the first six overs, losing five for 52 between overs seven and 14 and then their final five wickets for six runs in 15 balls as they were bowled out in 19.3 overs.

Wet conditions also hindered the tourists’ bowling efforts in the field, first the night-time dew and then rain that caused a 30-minute stoppage making it difficult to halt the West Indian onslaught.

Yet after the horrendous 50-over World Cup campaign in India and the embarrassing series defeat in the Caribbean against a team who didn’t even qualify for the tournament, this result further eroded the aura of a white-ball team that have collapsed in confidence over the past few months.

With the next T20 World Cup taking place in the Caribbean and USA in June, this series, which resumes with the second T20 in Grenada on Thursday, is vital for England’s preparations.

That, of course, is another title Buttler’s team are defending and there is much work to do to ensure there is not a repeat of the Indian shambles when it comes to the crunch in the summer.

It says much about where England are right now that we are being forced to look at positives from defeats so often. Overall this was the ninth loss in 13 matches across ODI and T20 cricket since the start of the World Cup. Matthew Mott’s tenuous grip on his position as England’s white-ball coach is slipping with every passing defeat.

At the moment, the Australian seems unable to stop the bleeding. Yet England can take away some valuable lessons from this latest loss. Here’s a few of them…

Phil Salt is here to stay

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - DECEMBER 12: Phil Salt of England dives in to make his ground during the 1st T20 International between West Indies and England at Kensington Oval on December 12, 2023 in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)
Salt’s display was one positive England can take from another humbling (Photo: Getty)

The 27-year-old opener followed up a promising ODI series with a blistering 40 from 20 balls in this match.

Salt’s brute strength and aggressive nature means he has to stay at the top of the order come the World Cup, with the returning Jonny Bairstow, rested for this tour ahead of the India Test series in the new year, slotted in at No3 to replace the discarded Dawid Malan.

Pump the breaks

Having raced to 77 without loss in the Powerplay thanks to Salt and Buttler, they were set for a total well in excess of 200.

But the familiar failing we have seen in ODI cricket recently – an inability to play the situation and hang in there when it gets tougher to score – saw England bowled out for the sixth time in 13 matches across formats since the start of the World Cup.

Damningly, they finished nine wickets down in five more of those matches, illustrating how England have been unable to reassess and play the percentages when the going gets tough.

Rashid-Ahmed double act is going to be fun

The leg-spin pair, Adil Rashid’s master to Rehan Ahmed’s apprentice, dragged England back into this match during the chase as they took five wickets between them. Ahmed was ransacked for 19 in his first over but the teenager came back impressively to take three for 39 overall, at one point finding himself on a hat-trick.

Rashid struck with his first ball and the pair bowling in tandem rattled the West Indies, who needed 49 off the final five overs after both leggies did their thing. “It was great to see them operate together,” said Buttler. “We wanted to see what it looked like, to have two X-factor bowlers like that, especially out here where it might spin. We need to find out if it’s an option here before we get to the World Cup.”

Death bowling remains an issue

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - DECEMBER 12: Tymal Mills of England during the 1st T20 International between West Indies and England at Kensington Oval on December 12, 2023 in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)
England’s death bowlers made it too easy for the West Indies (Photo: Getty)

It was obvious England didn’t get enough runs. But their bowlers still made it too easy for the hosts in the final five overs.

Liam Livingstone, Tymal Mills and Sam Curran were all plundered at the death as the West Indies got out of the chokehold Rashid and Ahmed applied to ease to victory. Reece Topley probably needs to be looked at in the next game.

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