Atherton: Close to 10 out of 10 for England

England earn the plaudits from the pundits after dismissing West Indies for just 55 in Dubai before wrapping up a six-wicket victory; Nasser Hussain says defending champions West Indies need to adapt their game to the conditions in the Middle East

Last Updated: 23/10/21 8:32pm

England had failed to beat West Indies in the T20 World Cup in five previous attempts

England had failed to beat West Indies in the T20 World Cup in five previous attempts

Mike Atherton reckoned England had come close to producing a 10-out-of-10 performance in their T20 World Cup opener against West Indies.

Eoin Morgan’s side dismissed West Indies for just 55 in their Group 1 clash in Dubai with Adil Rashid (4-2), Moeen Ali and Tymal Mills (both 2-17) doing the bulk of the damage.

Moeen’s four-over spell as an opening bowler helped restrict West Indies to 31-4 in the six-over powerplay, which Atherton felt was the key to their win.

England’s batters wrapped up a six-wicket victory with 70 balls to spare, although they slighted blotted their copybook by stuttering to 39-4 and were marked down a little by Atherton as a result.

“Fantastic for England,” said the Sky Sports Cricket pundit. “West Indies were very poor, you have to say, but the way England started that first powerplay – West Indies were 31-4 from that first six overs – I think only two teams have won games from worse positions than that.

“So you are looking at a marginal chance for West Indies to win after those opening six overs. That’s why Moeen Ali was the player of the match. That game was done and dusted or decided really in that opening powerplay.

Moeen Ali helped restrict West Indies to 31-4 in the powerplay

Moeen Ali helped restrict West Indies to 31-4 in the powerplay

“He [Moeen] was excellent. England got their match-ups – as the phrase is used in T20 these days – spot on against a left-hander heavy line-up that West Indies are, and that, of course, enabled Tymal Mills to come on on the back of that excellent work from Moeen Ali.

“Somebody coming back into the England side who would have been a little bit nervous, no doubt, after a long lay-off was allowed to ease in without too much pressure.

“So excellent performance from England. They stumbled a little bit at the end so it was not perhaps quite 10 out of 10, but pretty close to it.”

Atherton understood England’s reasons for dropping Dawid Malan, whose place has been under scrutiny due to his slowish starts, down the order from No 3 as they went in search of a quick win to boost their net run rate, but felt they may have gone too far as he failed to feature.

He said: “I thought to have the net run rate in the forefront of your mind is absolutely right – in England’s World Cup of 1999 they went out on net run rate.

“I can absolutely see why Jonny Bairstow came in at number three, possibly Moeen Ali [at four]. I thought when Dawid Malan started to slide further and further down the order, that was just going to create more scrutiny or more talk out of this game.

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“So whether he should have slid down as far I’m not sure, but I can see why net run rate, which might be absolutely vital at the end of this group stage, is at the forefront of your mind.”

Atherton’s fellow pundit Nasser Hussain thought West Indies had paid the price for failing to adapt their game to the conditions at the Dubai International Stadium.

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“This is a big playing area and I think that’s where the West Indies weren’t smart,” he said. “They were still trying to hit it to the bigger parts of the ground, so I don’t think the West Indies were smart enough in their hitting area.

“I’ve just noticed Roston Chase doing a few laps around the ground. Maybe they need that type of cricketer. If it’s going to be a lower-scoring World Cup, maybe they do break up those left handers and he is someone that can knock it around and run hard.

“The problem with that, obviously with some ageing West Indies batters like Russell and Gayle and Pollard, will they be able to do that style of cricket and run ones and twos and be busy?

West Indies play South Africa next on Tuesday

West Indies play South Africa next on Tuesday

“So West Indies have just got to be smarter and play the conditions, which England and Morgan have spoken about.”

One slight concern for England was the absence of Mark Wood with an ankle problem and Hussain says the fast bowler, who he spoke to ahead of the game, should not be hurried back into the side, with the team’s next match against Bangladesh on Wednesday.

“He was a little bit disappointed [not to be playing] to be honest because he bowled beautifully in that warm-up game against New Zealand,” revealed Hussain.

“He said in the third over he just felt his ankle a little bit and he’s had that jab. I think he’s being a little bit cautious as well. He’s been through so many injuries, through so much. Ashes coming up as well.

“Mark Wood is so much value on and off the cricket field so you don’t rush him back. You don’t rush any fast bowler back. You just cannot do that. And England have got other options as they have shown here.”

Watch the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, in the United Arab Emirates, live on Sky Sports between now and November 14.

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