Chris Gayle scored a losing 135 on what is likely his last match in Barbados as a Windies ODI player. Centuries from Jason Royes and Joe Root gave England a comfortable 6-wicket victory in the first game of their ODI series. Gayle's innings, slow at points, has been criticised. Are these criticisms warranted?

Windies skipper Jason Holder has hailed the impact of top opening batsman Chris Gayle who cracked 135 in a losing effort against England on Monday.

On a placid Kensington Oval pitch that suited the batsmen, the 39-year-old left-hander cracked an astounding 12 sixes and four 4s enroute to his 135 off 129 balls.  The effort was, however, somewhat in vain as England cruised to a six-wicket win on the back of centuries from Jason Roy (123) and Joe Root (102).  The result saw England move ahead 1-0 in the five-test One Day International series.

“Credit to our batters I thought we played exceptionally well on what was a really good pitch, one of the best I have seen at Kensington Oval for a while. I thought Chris played a really good innings. He took a bit of time upfront, got himself set and then put pressure back on the spinners in the middle and forced Eoin Morgan to bring back the seamers back a bit earlier. I felt he held the innings together and gave other batters a chance to express themselves,” Holder said.

“England played well to chase down our target. We’re now 1-0 down so we know we have to bounce back on Friday and look to make it 1-1 before we head off to Grenada.”

The teams will play the second ODI at the same venue tomorrow.

Jason Roy and Joe Root both struck centuries as England completed a record run chase to win the first one-day international against West Indies in Barbados.

Set 361 to win after Chris Gayle's 24th ODI hundred had helped West Indies to 360-8 from their 50 overs, Roy and Root starred in Bridgetown.

Gayle had thrilled a packed Kensington Oval as he marked his return to ODIs in style, but his 135 off 129 balls was ultimately in vain.

After Roy's superb knock at the top of the order, Root (102) guided the tourists to a six-wicket victory with eight balls to spare – becoming the fastest Englishman to 5,000 ODI runs in the process.

The victory marked England's biggest successful run chase in ODIs, eclipsing the 350 they managed against New Zealand in June 2015.

In his first ODI since July, Gayle made a sluggish start and had just nine runs off 32 balls when he was dropped by Roy.

That proved costly as the flamboyant opener made England pay with a sensational display of hitting.

Aided by fine knocks from Shai Hope (64) and Shimron Hetmyer (20), Gayle pushed the Windies towards a huge total as he cleared the rope on 12 occasions.

Those maximums helped the hosts set a record of 23 in a single innings, while also giving Gayle the most individual sixes in international cricket – moving past Shahid Afridi.

Despite his slow start, Gayle reached three figures off 100 balls and continued to bludgeon England's bowling until he was dismissed by a slower ball from Ben Stokes.

Darren Bravo (40) and Ashley Nurse (25 not out) pushed the Windies up to 360-8, the latter hitting a six off the last ball of the innings to eclipse New Zealand's mark for most maximums in an innings.

A target of 361 could have been daunting for England but they showed why they are the number one side in the world and Cricket World Cup favourites with a successful run chase.

Roy and Jonny Bairstow gave them a solid foundation with an opening partnership of 91, before the former took the lead in a 114-run stand with Root.

Like Gayle before him, Roy pierced the field with unerring regularity, finding the boundary on 15 occasions and clearing it a further three.

While Root anchored one end, Roy motored to his seventh hundred, brought up off just 65 balls as England made light work of their challenge.

They were helped by some sloppy fielding from the Windies with Oshane Thomas, Bravo and Nurse all dropping catches that allowed England to build momentum.

Even after Roy's departure for 123, the tourists continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over as Root and captain Eoin Morgan frustrated the Windies with a 116-run partnership.

Morgan perished for 65 but Root went on to reach three figures to give his side a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

Universe boss Chris Gayle described his last innings at Kensington Oval on Wednesday as one of his best.

West Indies hit a record 23 sixes against England on Wednesday as Chris Gayle fired the hosts to 360-8 in the opening ODI. 

Veteran opener, Christopher Henry Gayle, now has 24 centuries under his belt after smashing 135 off 128 deliveries to lead the Windies to 360 for 8 in the first One Day International of series against England at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. 

Right now the 2019 Cricket World Cup is now the focus for most international sides but England and Australia know this is also an Ashes year.

Plenty can change between now and the first Test at Edgbaston, which starts on August 1, as demonstrated in recent months.

Not too long ago, England were riding high after securing a series sweep in Sri Lanka, while Australia had lost a series at home for the first time against India.

Since then, however, Joe Root's side slipped up against West Indies and Australia returned to winning ways on home soil, crushing the Sri Lankans.

So, before the 50-over game takes centre stage, we grasped the chance to assess the state of the two rival nations.

BATTING

England began their busy winter without a clear idea over the identity of their top three in the order. Now, several months and six Tests later, they seem further away from finding a solution than when they left home. 

Keaton Jennings did make a century on Sri Lankan soil, but his problems against seam bowling were exposed once again in the Caribbean. Rory Burns fared better in the 2-1 series defeat, yet is still far from certain of his place in the Test XI. 

Joe Denly made his debut in Antigua, opening instead of the dropped Jennings, yet ended the West Indies series at number three and made 69 during the second innings in St Lucia.

It all leaves the top-order picture unclear. Candidates from outside the previous two touring parties know a stack of early runs in the County Championship will push them into contention That is easier said than done, though, considering the domestic schedule and pitches favouring seam early in the English summer.

At least the rest of the line-up is more settled. With Root locked in at four, England appear set to have Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who briefly went up to three before resuming duties behind the stumps, in the middle order. That quartet can power the team to competitive totals, provided they get better protection from those above them.

Much like their opponents, the batting order undoubtedly remains the biggest question mark for Australia, even though the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner from suspension will provide a huge boost.

The series against India and Sri Lanka did little to ease doubts over the top order, with the former's seamers dominating. Opener Marcus Harris was Australia's leading run-scorer against India with 258 at 36.85 but, for plenty of positive signs, his inability to convert starts into big scores hurt the team.

Joe Burns' big ton against Sri Lanka may be enough to get him a spot, while Travis Head has locked down his. Usman Khawaja scored what may have been a place-saving century in Canberra, having looked out of touch throughout the Australian summer.

 

The Australian Men's Cricket team celebrate the end of a successful Domain Test Series against Sri Lanka, winning 2-0 to claim the Warne–Muralitharan Trophypic.twitter.com/XJEMTmV06N

— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) February 4, 2019

Kurtis Patterson also reached three figures versus Sri Lanka and may grab the final spot in the top six, although the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season could be decisive.

Shaun Marsh has surely lost his Test place for a final time, but he has continually scored runs at domestic level - not that that has mattered for the Shield's leading run-scorer this season in Matthew Wade. Aaron Finch, meanwhile, endured a miserable campaign after being asked to open.

Even during the successful series over Sri Lanka, Australia found themselves in tough spots at 76-3, 28-3 and 37-3. But they have been playing without their two best batsmen in Warner and Smith, the latter's ability to steady an innings and make big scores a particular miss.

Their returns may not solve Australia's problems but will help, although English conditions will provide yet another huge test.


BOWLING

Let us start with Australia, who, barring injuries, appear far more settled in this area of their team.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are sidelined with pectoral and back injuries respectively, though their places are safe. Neither reached any great heights during the Australian summer, but Starc did find form against Sri Lanka, grabbing a 10-wicket Test haul in Canberra.

The pace attack was led by Pat Cummins instead, who was impressive and deserved greater rewards against India. Those duly arrived along with Sri Lanka as he took 14 wickets at 7.78. His 28 wickets were the most by an Australian across the six Tests. Such was his form, it was suggested Cummins should be taking the new ball.

In a further good sign on the pace front for Australia, Jhye Richardson replaced Hazlewood versus Sri Lanka and was handy. The 22-year-old took six wickets in the series.

Nathan Lyon enjoyed another strong summer and was, alongside Cummins, Australia's best bowler against India. The off-spinner finished that series with an equal-high 21 wickets – alongside the hugely impressive Jasprit Bumrah – to lift Australia as Starc and Hazlewood largely struggled.

Australia will need more from Starc and Hazlewood during the Ashes, and the latter will certainly enjoy the seaming conditions not often offered on flat wickets at home. But with Cummins also approaching his best, Australia have yet another pace option capable of causing England problems.

England, meanwhile, chopped and changed their attack in overseas conditions, but will likely revert to a more tried-and-tested battery of seamers on home turf.

Stuart Broad may not be a regular on the team's travels anymore, but he will undoubtedly play a leading role in the Ashes, alongside the evergreen James Anderson. 

Moeen Ali also is locked in as the frontline spinner – England are unlikely to pick two unless the conditions at any of the venues are certain to suit – and, while his form with the bat has dipped over the past year, the all-rounder has taken 177 Test wickets in 58 Test appearances. 

With Stokes - fitness permitting - certain to be in the team too, England appear to have one seamer spot up for grabs.

Mark Wood burst back onto the Test scene with a scintillating spell in St Lucia that the national selectors will struggle to forget. The Durham paceman’s injury record makes him far from a certainty to complete such a congested series, even if two fragile-looking batting units suggest there could be a few extra days of rest.

Sam Curran was England's new golden boy at the end of 2018 before his reputation lost a little shine on pitches that failed to suit in the Caribbean, while Olly Stone's tour was cut short by a back injury. Wood was his replacement and may well have skipped to the front of the queue with his five-wicket haul.


CURRENT OUTLOOK

England are favourites to regain the urn on home soil, mainly due to the fact Australia have not won an Ashes away series since 2001.

The hosts prevailed 3-2 four years ago and a repeat result would not be a surprise, considering how both teams are strong in the bowling department. The tourists' hopes may rest on Smith and Warner quickly settling back in, but previous issues for the Aussies against the moving ball may once again come back to haunt them.

Like Swiss cheese, these teams have holes. However, their problems - plus being prone to batting collapses - should make for entertaining viewing.

Windies skipper Jason Holder claims the unit is pleased to once again don the underdogs' tag ahead of the One Day International (ODI) series against England, which bowls off on Wednesday.

Heading into the series as the world’s number-one ranked team, England will once again be heavy favourites, with the regional side ranked some eight places below them. 

With the situation very similar to the one they faced in the Test series, where the Windies dominated to win 2-1.  Holder, who was suspended for the only the third and only Test the team lost, is hoping to return and make an immediate impact.

“We're pretty confident, we have momentum from the Test series and good experience in the dressing room,” Holder said.

“We pack a pretty heavy punch when we're stacking up our team. 'Underdogs' is not a bad tag to have - it's more pressure on them and less pressure on us,” he added.

“It was tough watching the Test in St Lucia but I'm very hungry to get back on the park and looking forward to the challenge of carrying the team forward.”

The Windies will face an even tougher test than the Test series with both pacers Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach out of action.  Keemo Paul, Evin Lewis and Rovman Powell are also ruled out.

Colonial Group International Ltd. (CGI) has announced a major global partnership with Cricket West Indies (CWI) that “will benefit cricket across the region from communities and young families to professional cricketers”.

Centuries from Jason Roy and Joe Root led England to a dominant 171-run win over a University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice Chancellor’s XI at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. 

Windies wicket-keeper batsman Shai Hope has hailed the addition of star left-hander Chris Gayle to the squad as the team prepares to face England in the upcoming One Day International series.

The 39-year-old will return to the ODI team for the first time since 2018 when the Windies faced off against Bangladesh.  Gayle will play the opening two matches of the five-match series against England.

With the experienced batsman just short of 10,000 ODI runs at an average of 36.98 and 15 centuries, Hope is confident Gayle’s addition will be a major boost to the team.

"It’s great, just to see him (Gayle) at nets. Good laugh, good shots as well, and he’s going to strengthen the team a lot," ICC quoted Hope as saying. 

 "We know the importance that Gayle brings to the team. He has a lot of experience and we need to make sure we use that experience and strengthen the entire team," he added.

Hope, who was part of the team's recent Test series win against England also believes that victory will give the team added confidence ahead of the series.

"It’s a lot to look forward to. It's a very exciting time, especially leading up to the World Cup so I’m sure the guys are ready and raring to go. We are just coming off a Test series win and that was fantastic for everyone involved and the fans, so it is important for us to continue in that vein and try to get the series win as well.”

The Windies will face England in the first ODI on Wednesday at the Kensington Oval.

Paul Farbrace is to leave his position as England assistant coach after their tour of the Caribbean to take up the role as sporting director at Warwickshire.

The highly regarded coach is taking up a position left vacant by Ashley Giles, who departed Edgbaston to become managing director of England Men's Cricket.

Farbrace initially joined the England set-up as assistant to Peter Moores in 2014 having led Sri Lanka to World Twenty20 glory.

The timing of the 51-year-old's decision comes as somewhat of a surprise with a Cricket World Cup and a home Ashes series against Australia on the horizon in the coming months.

"I have had five fantastic years with England Cricket. It has been a brilliant experience working with world-class coaches, players and support staff," Farbrace, who will start with Warwickshire in March after England's T20I series against West Indies, told the ECB's official website.

"I have been fortunate to taste some genuine success and be part of the development of some excellent players, who have the world at their feet this summer.

"There is never a great time to leave an international set-up and despite what will be a fantastic summer for English cricket, the opportunity to shape the future of one of the game's biggest counties was too much to resist. 

"It would have been tough for me to have turned down the opportunity once Warwickshire showed an interest in me.

"Finally, I would like to thank the ECB, and in particular, Trevor Bayliss, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Ashley Giles for their support in what has been a difficult decision to make. 

"I wish them every success this summer. I believe they have the right attributes to create history by lifting the World Cup in July and winning The Ashes that follows it."

Alongside head coach Trevor Bayliss, who will not be renewing his own contract when it expires in September, Farbrace has been instrumental in turning around England's fortunes in white-ball cricket.

Four years ago, England were reeling from being knocked out of the World Cup group stages, but are now the number-one ranked ODI side.

"I would like to thank Paul for all his efforts over the last five years as a key figure in England's success across the red and white ball formats," Giles said.

"Paul was integral, alongside, Andrew Strauss, Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan, in transforming our white ball strategy, which has seen us become the best team in the world leading into a World Cup year.

"His efforts in developing players in the elite environment will benefit him in his new role at Edgbaston.

"I will now start the process to find a successor and work closely with our existing set-up to ensure we have everything in place ahead of a busy summer of international cricket."

West Indies have called Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell and John Campbell into their squad for the first two one-day internationals against England, in response to a succession of injury problems.

All-rounders Rovman Powell and Keemo Paul have both been ruled out, while opener Evin Lewis has withdrawn from the squad due to a groin injury.

Former Windies T20 skipper Brathwaite and Cottrell have therefore earned recalls, while Campbell is in line to win a first ODI cap after impressing in the recent Test series victory over England.

"With our squad suffering from a few players with injuries even before a ball is bowled, an opportunity presents itself for other players to make a claim for ICC Cricket World Cup spots," said chairman of selectors Courtney Browne.

"The [selection] panel take this opportunity to wish the injured players a speedy recovery and to wish the team success in the upcoming ODIs."

Kensington Oval in Barbados will host the first two games in a five-match series on Wednesday and Friday, before contests in Grenada and St Lucia.

 

Revised West Indies squad for first two ODIs:

Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, John Campbell, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.

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