(ESPNCRICINFO) Eoin Morgan won the toss and chose to bowl first in the one-off T20I in Durham, as England looked to extract a measure of revenge for their memorable defeat in the World T20 final.
Eighteen months have elapsed since that balmy, barmy night in Kolkata, when England and West Indies served up a climax for the ages. Carlos Brathwaite’s four sixes in an over off Ben Stokes provided the stunning denouement, but there were so many subplots threaded throughout a tremendous contest that it would have taken an entire five-match series to unravel all of the themes and feuds that erupted during a tempestuous contest.
Instead, with the best will in the world – or the best spin-doctoring, if you prefer – this is not the sequel that most fans would have hoped for. Stokes, for one, is missing from England’s squad, an absence that has drawn understandable ire from Ian Botham, Durham’s chairman, as well as some rather more muted notes of objection from David Harker, the club chief executive, given that most of the ticket sales at the Riverside have been heavily touted around the chance to see their local hero in the flesh.
That’s not to say that the match will be lacking star quality, however – far from it. West Indies’ squad is unrecognisable from the Test side that fought valiantly but in vain in the recent Test series, with not a single player retained as a raft of big guns return to the fray. Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels are the most prominent names in that regard, but the most exciting selection could yet be Gayle’s fellow opener, Evin Lewis.
“There’s too much to say,” said Brathwaite, West Indies’ captain, of the hard-hitting Lewis, whose last international outing was a matchwinning 125 not out off 62 balls against India. “There’s no better person to learn from than Chris Gayle. He’s been smashing it in the CPL, smashing it against India, and he’s a joy to watch.”
England have plenty of power hitters, even in Stokes’ absence. Notably, Jonny Bairstow has muscled his way into the starting XI, having earned his chance during the Champions Trophy – which is bad luck for Dawid Malan, who shone on debut in England’s last outing against South Africa at Lord’s in June.
England have opted for four out-and-out seamers, in addition to the spin of Adil Rashid, so Liam Dawson also sits out this match, alongside Jake Ball. Tom Curran, who impressed in his debut outings against South Africa, is retained.
The weather is dry, but chilly in the extreme. “It’s a bit unpredictable, but winning the toss can help,” said Morgan. “But ultimately we’ve got to play well.”
England 1 Alex Hales, 2 Jason Roy, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Adil Rashid, 8 David Willey, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Tom Curran
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Chadwick Walton (wk), 5 Keiron Pollard, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Kesrick Williams.