Jonny Bairstow punished a below-par West Indies with an eye-catching 68 to set up England’s four-wicket win in the first Twenty20 international.
Bairstow’s career-best T20I score came from 40 balls as England chased down 161 with seven balls left in St Lucia.
The opener fell in the 12th over but Joe Denly’s 30 and 18 from Sam Billings took the tourists to victory.
England’s bowlers had earlier impressed in restricting their hosts to 160-8 with Tom Curran taking 4-36.
Nicholas Pooran hit 58 but England’s Chris Jordan also stood out with the ball with an economical 2-16, including the crucial wicket of Chris Gayle and a stunning caught and bowled to remove Darren Bravo.
While England were clinical in the field, West Indies were poor with wayward bowling, dropped catches and careless fielding.
Victory gives England a 1-0 lead in the three-match series going into the second T20 in St Kitts on Friday.
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West Indies give England helping hand
West Indies have impressed during England’s tour of the Caribbean – winning the Test series 2-1 and drawing the 50-over series 2-2 – but this was their worst performance in the field so far.
They battled to a competitive score with the bat but allowed England to get off to a flying start in reply – Alex Hales hitting leg-side deliveries for six and four to begin the chase.
Sheldon Cottrell dismissed Hales with the fifth ball of the innings, but Oshane Thomas then gifted Bairstow boundaries with three leg-stump half-volleys in the following over.
Bairstow continued to hit loose deliveries to the boundary – striking nine fours and two sixes on the same pitch England were bowled out for 113 in the fifth ODI on Saturday – but was dropped twice during his knock.
Wicketkeeper Shai Hope put the opener down on 34 when he looked to be wrong-footed diving to his right, and then Cottrell spilled a regulation catch running in from long-off with the Yorkshireman on 52.
The hosts also conceded 23 extras to England’s eight.
West Indies’ errors meant that when Bairstow was eventually caught at deep mid-wicket attacking spinner Ashley Nurse, England were already well ahead of the required run-rate on 103-4 in the 12th over.
The tourists were without regular middle-order players Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali who have all been rested for this series, while Jason Roy has returned home for the birth of his first child, which meant it was left to Denly and Billings to guide the chase to victory.
The Kent pair were relatively untroubled in a stand of 50 and although both fell with less than 10 runs required, they had already all-but assured victory.
Jordan gives England a reminder
The absence of Stokes and Moeen, and the decision to also rest fast bowler Mark Wood, meant fringe players Curran, Jordan and David Willey played more significant roles with the ball.
Jordan was left out of England’s 50-over squad but reminded captain Eoin Morgan of his talents with 10 dot balls in his three overs.
His dismissal of Gayle came when the dangerous West Indies opener, who hit two centuries in the ODI series, guided a yorker-length wide delivery straight to short third man for 15 but the wicket of Darren Bravo showed his brilliant athleticism.
He deceived Bravo with a slower ball, which took a leading edge, and then had to alter his momentum and dive low to his right to catch a one-handed catch.
Curran was more expensive than Jordan but took four wickets by mixing his pace with a variety of slower balls which deceived the batsmen.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid continued his impressive form with four overs for just 15 runs and the wicket of Carlos Brathwaite.
The only downside to England’s attack was an expensive spell from Liam Plunkett who was hit for three sixes and two fours in a spell of 0-44 in four overs.
The bowlers were magnificent – reaction
England wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow, speaking to the Test Match Special podcast: “I thought we played really well. The ways the guys adapted at the top with the new ball, and then obviously Adil Rashid and Denners through the middle bowled really, really well. 160 was definitely chaseable on there and that’s what we did.”
England bowler Chris Jordan: “It was nice to see the back of Chris Gayle early today. I followed almost every ball of the one-day series and he is a phenomenal hitter.”
England captain Eoin Morgan, speaking to Sky Sports: “I thought the bowlers were magnificent. Taking early wickets really did put us on the front foot because it’s something we’ve struggled to do this whole white-ball tour. I thought our seam bowlers did an incredible job, then followed up by a fine spell of bowling from Adil Rashid. Chris Jordan came back in and bowled really well and Tom Curran took four, but I thought Adil did really well.”