THE BRIT OVAL
England 161-6, West Indies 82-5
West Indies won by 5 wickets on Duckworth-Lewis
JUST for the ICC Twenty20 duration the Brit Oval becomes the Oval again. All mention of the ground-sponsor insurance company is blacked out to ensure the name is not associated with the tournament to 'protect' the rights of the official sponsors. And out went England, beaten by the West Indies on Duckworth-Lewis by five wickets in the wet with four balls remaining.
England played well and lost, suffering the worst of the conditions. Often pundits talk about 'which team turns up' when assessing Pakistan and West Indies, but England have been the high-low team of the event, completely and infuriatingly unpredictable. After a great win over India on Sunday, they are out of the competition.
Doubts lingered about England's selection. For example, number five still looked too high up the order for Paul Collingwood, and one wonders whether wicketkeeper James Foster should be selected ahead of Matthew Prior, a harder striker of the ball. I doubt if Adil Rashid is yet an international 20-overs player.
Against West Indies the top order played some lovely ground strokes, most notably Kevin Pietersen in his 31 off 19 balls. Ravi Bopara stroked 55 off 47 balls, which was all very well, but short of carnage. In fact in the second 10 overs until the final two balls England had hit only one boundary, a six by Owais Shah, before Stuart Broad clouted four and six off Suleiman Benn's left-armers to raise the final score to 161 for six.
The boundary rope was pushed fully out, to explain the dearth of sixes -- a welcome dearth in my view. The big shots had to be earned over 70 yards and more, and that meant spinners could be effective. The domestic county 20-over competition has been spoilt in some cases by a reduction in boundary distances to increase the six count. It was a marketing ploy by the ignorant, and fortunately the ICC have maintained the cricket integrity of this competition.
England's innings was interrupted by a half-hour blast of rain when the score had reached 129 for four in the 17th over, but no first-innings overs were lost, which showed gratifying flexibility in the ICC rules. Punters would usually prefer a full game, even if the game ends later than expected.
The West Indies were without their fastest bowler Fidel Edwards, nursing a back strain, and England galloped along without murdering an average attack. Shah hit his six with a typical leg-side pick-up. This was the shot that landed in a boundary fielder's hands against Holland at Lord's, but with an exaggerated follow-through he cleared the ropes here.
Shah was dismissed by one of the tournament's more sensational interventions. His middled pull off Dwayne Bravo flew like an anti-tank missile -- yes, I have seen one -- towards the midwicket boundary. It looked like six all the way until Andre Fletcher leapt high on the boundary edge to pull down a marvellous catch.
Broad supplied the England innings with a 'big' over, a few moments of brute force that could push up the final score a dozen runs above a par target. Unfortunately the weather spoilt an intriguing match.
Rain delayed the start of the West Indies innings long enough for one spectator to strip to his underpants and achieve a belly waterslide along the covers. Naturally I should be condemning this, but I can't. It was spectacular stuff. Anyway, the delay meant that under Duckworth-Lewis the target was revised to 80 to win off nine overs. With a greasy ball, England had little chance of halting an onslaught. They tried manfully and go out with my sympathy.