Chris Gayle lit up the gloom with a breathtaking cameo in the fifth and final one-day international in Southampton on Friday before a late flurry of runs propelled the West Indies to a competitive 288-6 against England. In a low-key game overshadowed by the scandal surrounding England's missing Ben Stokes, the tourists set out to restore pride after losing three of the first four matches of the series, with one no-result.
Chris Gayle. Pic/AFP
The West Indies, who have lost 15 of the past 16 completed ODIs against England, initially struggled to make headway under heavy skies following a rain delay, inching to just nine runs after the end of the fourth over. But Gayle then cut loose, hitting 34 runs off just six balls, all delivered by Jake Ball, including four successive sixes, briefly changing the complexion of the game.
But with the West Indies dangerman threatening to take the contest away from England, debutant Tom Curran produced a slower ball and induced a mishit from Gayle, with Liam Plunkett taking a fine diving catch running backwards. The dismissal of Gayle allowed England to re-establish control as Shai Hope joined his brother Kyle at the crease, with both batsman resorting to more orthodox methods. Plunkett himself forced the next breakthrough, taking a fine catch off his own bowling to dismiss Kyle Hope for 33.
Spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali established impressive control, with Marlon Samuels in particular finding it hard to establish any sort of rhythm. The West Indies went from the ninth over until the 31st over without scoring a single boundary. Samuels eventually broke the deadlock, pulling Plunkett for four but he was dismissed in the next over for 32 off 60 balls, stumped by Jos Buttler after dancing down the pitch to Ali.
Desperately needing to step up the scoring rate to post a competitive score, Shai Hope clubbed three successive fours off Curran, bringing up his 50 in the process. Joe Root dropped a difficult chance in the deep off Hope as the batsman threatened to cut loose but shortly afterwards he was caught on the boundary by Sam Billings off Ball for 72 off 95 balls. Despite the increased tempo, the West Indies looked set to fall short of posting a challenging total but Sunil Ambris (38 off 27 balls) and Ashley Nurse, with an impressive 31 off just 12 balls, set England 289 to win.
Curran replaced Chris Woakes in the England team while West Indies brought in Kyle Hope and Ambris for the injured Evin Lewis and captain Jason Holder, who had to return home for a funeral. Stokes's Ashes hopes are in the balance after England suspended him from international matches "until further notice" following the emergence of a video apparently showing him fighting outside a nightclub. Test vice-captain Stokes was included in England's Ashes squad announced Wednesday, despite reportedly injuring his hand in the incident that led to his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.