England went 1-0 up in the first of five ODIs against West Indies. Patrick Noone analyses the innings of two of the game’s centurions.
England completed their highest ever successful run chase in ODI cricket, winning the 1st ODI by six wickets in Barbados. It was the story of two hundreds as two openers played contrasting innings on a run-soaked day at Kensington Oval.
Chris Gayle scored his first ODI century against a Full Member nation since the 2015 World Cup. It was an innings full of powerful, thrilling shots that the self-proclaimed Universe Boss has become known for across a 20-year career, but Gayle’s hundred was unusual in terms of its construction.
He’s known for being something of a slow starter, but his strike rate in the early part of today’s innings took him to rare extremes. Only once has he reached the end of the first ten overs with fewer runs and lower strike rate than the 8 (26) he found himself on at the end of the first Powerplay. That match was over 18 years ago, against Bangladesh in Dhaka when Gayle would go on to make 21 from 43 balls having been 2 off 27 after ten overs; a recovery of sorts but nothing like what we saw in Bridgetown today.
Gayle only attacked three balls in the first ten overs – he was dropped off the fourth ball he attacked, when on 9, but after that he began a relentless onslaught that saw him attack exactly half of the balls he faced. He only played a false shot to 16% of those balls he attacked – the global average for attacking false shots is 21%.
Liam Plunkett’s individual record against Gayle in this innings just about summed up how he went about his business: 14 balls, six dots, six singles, four sixes. It was all or nothing from the left-hander who, despite crashing 12 sixes, only recorded a strike rate of 104.65.
55% of the balls Gayle faced were dots, the highest percentage he’s faced in a century innings for nearly six years. That’s despite the fact that, after 20 overs, West Indies had recorded their lowest dot ball percentage at that stage of an innings for over five years. As exhilarating as the latter half of his innings became, perhaps in hindsight the opener had chewed up too many deliveries and prevented West Indies from posting a score in excess of 400.
That feeling of ‘what if?’ only lingers thanks to a century of a different nature from Jason Roy. Unlike Gayle, Roy hit the ground running in England’s response, only defending one of the 85 balls he faced on his way to 123.
It didn’t matter what lengths West Indies seamers bowled to Roy, he was going after everything, striking at 170.58 against short-pitched bowling, 136.36 when they went full and a more than healthy 123.52 to everything in between.
Against spin, he was strong on both front and back foot. His three sixes were all from over-pitched deliveries right in his slot, two of which he drove and one he slog-swept. Meanwhile, four of the six fours he struck against the slower bowlers were from balls shorter than 6.4m that he could cut and pull with characteristic aplomb.
It is a measure of how far this England team has come that chasing a total as high as 361 never looked in doubt. That’s despite this being England’s highest ever successful run chase in ODIs; it didn’t feel like anything groundbreaking was happening, because it was so effortless and so in-keeping with the progression of this team. In conditions such as these, where the pitch is flat and bowlers have a minimal amount to work with, almost no total is too out of reach for this batting lineup.
With Friday’s 2nd ODI set to be played on a similar-looking surface at Kensington Oval, it could be another run-fest. Doubts still remain over the make-up of England’s bowling attack, and playing in conditions such as these gives little opportunity for seamers to shine. We will perhaps learn more about those vying for places in the World Cup squad when the series moves to Grenada but, until then, England’s batting lineup can add another stellar achievement to an ever-growing catalogue of improbably excellent innings.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.