Match Report – WI vs ENG 3rd T20I, December 16, 2023

England 226 for 3 (Salt 109*, Buttler 51) beat West Indies 222 for 6 (Pooran 82, Rashid 2-32) by seven wickets

Nicholas Pooran produced a T20I career-best as West Indies showcased their six-hitting chops once again in Grenada’s National Stadium. Phil Salt then did the same on the way to a maiden T20 hundred as England rediscovered their batting mojo. And at the end, an explosive assault from Harry Brook was the clincher, as England burgled the 21 runs required from final over to bring themselves kicking and screaming back into the series at 2-1 down with two to play.

Brook finished unbeaten on 31 from seven balls, having taken Andre Russell for 4-6-6-2-6 to seal a record chase on the ground with a ball to spare. Salt was the man watching on from the other end, having himself hit nine sixes in 109 from 56 to set up England’s third-highest successful chase in T20Is. The final sixes count, after Brook’s ice-cool finish: West Indies 16-18 England.

As in the second match, England opted to bowl first and managed to inflict early damage only for West Indies’ power to leave them bruised in the final analysis. Pooran weathered the loss of both openers in the first two overs and batted astutely through the gears to make 82 from 45 balls, with a series of muscular cameos – most notably Rovman Powell’s 39 off 21 – helping to raise a formidable Manhattan through the back end of the West Indies innings.

Having limped home short of a target of 177 two days earlier, England found a spark of their own in a valiant attempt to keep the series alive. Salt and Jos Buttler, who made 51 from 34, put on a century stand as the runs flowed from the outset, only for West Indies – notably through the efforts of left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie – to keep a lid on the scoring at a crucial juncture. After Motie had finished his allocation, England were left staring down a requirement of 102 from the last seven overs.

But Liam Livingstone helped add 70 from 34 for the third wicket, Salt bringing up his century from 51 balls moments after hitting Jason Holder for back-to-back sixes. Livingstone holed out but Brook signalled his intent by launching his first ball for six to leave England needing 31 from 12. Alzarri Joseph conceded 10 from the 19th, nudging the odds in Russell’s favour – only for Brook to leave West Indies’ talismanic allrounder flat out on the canvas after a delirious finale.

Salt and Buttler stand tall

Asked to score at more than 11 runs an over, England needed a statement at the top of the order. It was provided, predictably enough, by Buttler. Never mind the patchy form of the last few months that had seen him pass 50 twice in 20 white-ball innings for his country – here he rocked back to launch his second ball, from Akeal Hosein, over long-on before leaning into the next and chipping it languidly for six more through long-off.

Salt notched his first boundary in the following over, and the closest the openers came to being parted early on was when Holder struck his pads next ball – Nigel Duguid’s not-out decision supported by DRS returning umpire’s call on leg stump. Amid the confusion, Buttler might have been run out, stranded two-thirds of the way down the pitch with Salt unmoving.

Salt cleared the ropes at the end of Holder’s over and then boxed Motie’s ears with sixes at the beginning and end of his first, as England raced away to 73 without loss at the end of the powerplay. The boundaries began to dry up with the field spread, though Salt mangled Hosein over long-off to bring up England’s 100 in the tenth – a first century stand for Salt and Buttler as an opening pair and England’s first since they had dismantled India at Adelaide in the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-final.

Motie turns it around

Motie had delivered his full allocation on this ground two nights ago at a cost of nine runs. This time that figure was surpassed in the space of four balls, as his first over went for 18; but when he switched ends shortly before the halfway mark, the left-arm spinner was able to exert a vital measure of control for his captain, Powell. Pushing his pace up above 100kph, he conceded just five runs from his second – the ninth of the innings – and then four more from the 11th.

With the required rating rising, Buttler was then smartly caught at deep backward square leg off Russell – Hosein taking the catch comfortably inside the rope before tossing it to Joseph as he went out of bounds. In the next over, Motie’s last, he conceded just three runs to go with the wicket of Will Jacks, edging behind for a frustrated 1 off six balls. England at that stage needed to score at almost 15 runs an over – the rate would rise as high as 17.75 by the end of the 16th – but there was still a twist to come.

Salt shakes it up

Few batters in the English game possess the same level of native belligerence as Salt, but he has struggled to find the right balance between attacking intent and building an innings. This was only the second time in his T20I career that he had faced more than 35 balls, and yet he managed the closing stages of England’s chase superbly before giving way to Brook for the coup de grace.

With Salt on 81 from 47, and West Indies seemingly on the brink of shutting the game down, he struck three consecutive sixes off Joseph and Holder before a single took him to his second hundred in an England shirt – and his first significant score of a tour on which he will have hoped to reassert his credentials in both white-ball formats. There was one more six to come, lofting Joseph over long-off in the penultimate over to keep England just about in touch. But equally impressive in searing afternoon heat was his fitness, running 24 singles, six twos and a three to help England stay the course.

Topley back on top

England made two changes to their XI, bringing in seamers Reece Topley and Gus Atkinson for Rehan Ahmed and Chris Woakes. After Mooen Ali found some grip to bowl Brandon King with his fifth ball, Topley set about demonstrating his value with the new ball. Playing for the first time since a finger injury ended his ODI World Cup back in mid-October, he was immediately back into the groove, finding swing and bounce with his third delivery to square up Kyle Mayers and nick the opener off for nought.

West Indies were 8 for 2 and in danger of making an even worse start than they managed in the second match. They counterpunched through a half-century stand between Pooran and Shai Hope, but Topley was almost blemish-free during his opening three-over spell in the powerplay, conceding a single boundary for figures of 3-0-14-1.

Pooran and Powell punish England

Pooran walked out in the first over and, although he struck a six and two fours inside his first ten balls, was measured in his approach during the first half of the innings as he rebuilt with Hope, initially, and then Powell. He was on 32 from 23 at the halfway stage of the innings and, although he swatted Atkinson for a third six in the next over, it was Powell who provided most of the impetus during their fourth-wicket stand of 58 from 5.2 overs.

Powell looked in the mood to better his 27-ball fifty on the same ground two days before, smashing Livingstone for back-to-back sixes, but was eventually defeated by a Sam Curran bouncer to be caught behind. England clawed back some ground, with Curran producing two tight overs after being dismantled by Powell in the first T20I, but Pooran was content to bide his time as he ticked along to a 37-ball half-century, reached via a delicate dab off a Rashid googly.

The next over saw West Indies flex their six-hitting muscle again, as Tymal Mills was collared for 25 runs: Sherfane Rutherford hit him straight and over square leg for four and six, before Pooran regained the strike and went 4-6-4 – the pick being a flat thrash over cover. Two more sixes came off Rashid, and by the time he picked out long-on off the legspinner, Pooran had plundered 28 runs from his last seven balls.

Holder ices the cake

Rutherford, replacing the out-of-form Shimron Hetmyer, quickly caught the mood with a punchy 29 off 17 – although he became a second wicket for Curran, whose figures were dented during a 19th over that cost 21, and concluded with Russell creaming him for an almighty straight six from his third ball. That was six No. 14 for the innings, and although Topley started his final over well, Holder ensured that the ticker would keep spinning, battering two more hits over the ropes to finish with 18 from five balls and ensure West Indies would comfortably eclipse the previous highest score on this ground, Ireland’s 208 for 7 made in 2020.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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