Sam Curran and Jos Buttler return to form as England level series in Antigua

By Sports Desk December 06, 2023

Sam Curran redeemed himself after his weekend drubbing and England captain Jos Buttler rediscovered his Midas touch in his side’s series-levelling victory over the West Indies in Antigua.

Chasing 203, Will Jacks put England into the ascendancy with a sparkling 73 off 72 balls, including four sixes and six fours, but his downfall left the tourists wobbling on 116 for four in the 20th over.

Buttler, who had been averaging 14.1 since the start of a miserable World Cup for himself and his team, gradually bloomed and his unbeaten 58 off 45 deliveries – his first fifty in 14 ODIs – sealed England’s six-wicket win.

Harry Brook finished on 43 not out as England prevailed with 17.1 overs to spare although the architect of them ensuring a decider in Barbados on Saturday was Curran, who took three for 33 in seven overs.

Having recorded the most expensive figures by an England bowler in Sunday’s four-wicket defeat, leaking 98 runs in 9.5 overs, the left-arm seamer snared top-order trio Keacy Carty, Brandon King and Shimron Hetmyer.

After the Windies lurched to 23 for four, captain Shai Hope did his bit for nominative determinism, following up his match-winning ton a few days ago with a run-a-ball 68 and rookie Sherfane Rutherford chipped in with 63 before the pair were dismissed by Liam Livingstone, who took three for 39.

Curran was initially wayward again and belted for three fours by King but an opening stand that put on 104 on Sunday was snuffed out for 15 here after Gus Atkinson scythed through Alick Athanaze, with England’s review for caught behind showing a big snick on UltraEdge.

Curran’s fortunes shifted as angled deliveries took the edges of Carty and King to Zak Crawley before Hetmyer was rapped on the back pad by a fuller ball. The not-out verdict was overturned after Ben Duckett seemed to persuade Buttler into sending the decision upstairs.

Curran’s three wickets in eight balls left Hope and Rutherford, in his second ODI, with a mountainous rebuild. A 129-run stand followed as smoke from the barbecue vendors beyond the stands occasionally drifted across the ground, Hope settling with three straight driven fours in an Atkinson over.

Brydon Carse was taken the distance by Hope as the partnership grew, with both Windies batters going past fifties, Rutherford doing so with a mighty heave off the otherwise parsimonious Rehan Ahmed.

Having been held back until the 26th over, Livingstone broke the union when Rutherford drove loosely to Phil Salt in the ring while Yannic Cariah was castled through the gate by a floaty off-spinner.

Livingstone had the big fish with a precision piece of bowling, his leg-spinner leaving Hope in two minds, missing an indeterminate prod and his off-stump as a consequence.

Livingstone’s figures were dented by Romario Shepherd’s four fours in an over but the Windies subsided after he holed out to Rehan, whose figures of 10-1-40-2 were identical to what he recorded on Sunday.

Despite tricky conditions, Salt and Jacks were authoritative from the off, evoking the spirit of predecessors Jason Roy and first Alex Hales then Jonny Bairstow.

The pair rode their luck, edging wide of slip off Alzarri Joseph before Salt’s luck ran out on 21, bowled by Shepherd, after a 50-run stand.

The early battle between Joseph and Jacks was worth the entry fee alone. A rising snorter took Jacks’ glove and ballooned over Hope but the opener responded by hammering over backward square-leg and then repeated the trick off Shepherd. Jacks then smeared Oshane Thomas over backward point for a third six.

Crawley chopped on off Gudakesh Motie, who found the glove when Duckett went for a customary sweep before Brook edged agonisingly short of slip from his first ball as tension crept in.

Nerves may have been jangling when Jacks was lbw to one that kept low from Rutherford, bringing out Buttler, who had been dismissed for single figures in five of his previous eight innings.

He made a cagey start and was beaten twice on the outside edge by leg-spinner Cariah but he steadily grew in confidence alongside Brook.

A whipped four off Joseph was followed by a skip down the track and thump for back-to-back sixes off Cariah as Buttler started to find some rhythm.

The second of those monstrous blows was measured at 94 metres before another mighty mow off Thomas brought up a 43-ball half-century. Buttler took 16 off that Thomas over to level the scores.

It was left to Brook to get over the line and he did so by sweeping Motie behind square for four in the 33rd over.

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