- Middlesex v West Indians, Tour match, Lord's
Bravo hits form as West Indians crush Middlesex
With an influx of new personnel to their squad, West Indies can consider themselves far more England's equals in the forthcoming one-day series, if not even slight favourites given the power in the top order. That strength was on show during their one warm-up match ahead of the opening ODI, as they piled up 335 for 4 against Middlesex. Their performance included a welcome hundred from Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith's 96 which showed they should not have to rest purely on Chris Gayle.
Gayle's return to the maroon strip was the initial focus at Lord's. In the second over he took consecutive boundaries off Robbie Williams and then launched Tim Murtagh for two sixes. With the Middlesex attack lacking Corey Collymore - a former West Indies team-mate of Gayle - and Toby Roland-Jones it was lightweight and Gayle looked set to take advantage. However, he did not quite middle his attempted flick over the leg side off Anthony Ireland and found deep midwicket on the shorter of the boundaries.
The backbone of West Indies' imposing total was a 156-run stand for the third wicket between Darren Bravo and Smith, while the end of the innings was given a kick by Dwayne Bravo - another player back in the squad after IPL duty - who sped to 40 off 21 balls in a fifth-wicket partnership of 73 in six overs. There is certainly no lack of boundary-clearing ability in the visitors' line-up which extends down to Andre Russell and Darren Sammy in the lower order.
Darren Bravo's innings was timely after a Test series in which he disappointed with 81 runs in five innings. He was not challenged by a weakened Middlesex attack - further depleted by the loss of Robbie Williams who injured himself fielding - but neither did he let the opportunity to revive his confidence go to waste. The hundred - just his third in List A cricket - came from 110 deliveries in the final over of the innings and he closed out the 50 overs by striking the final two balls for sixes against Josh Davey. He provides an important foil to the more dashing blades elsewhere.
Smith - well known to English audiences after his spells in county cricket for Sussex - came within one blow of three-figures after an innings that hinted at a greater maturity in his batting than had previously been evident. Given the chance to bat at No. 4 with Marlon Samuels resting, he played himself in but still did not struggle to score at a run-a-ball, a rate he later increased before driving to mid-on searching for the boundary to reach a hundred. One of his two sixes went into the top tier of the pavilion; Gayle is not the only one who can comfortably clear boundaries.
There is suddenly competition for batting places. Samuels, West Indies' Man of the Series in the Tests, will return to the middle order so one from this side will need to make way. Another advantage for them is many of their batsmen are more than capable with the ball; Gayle, Samuels, Smith and Kieron Pollard all provide useful varieties of spin or medium-pace, one of the reasons the 50-over (and 20-over) format suits West Indies. In this match, though, their bowling was barely needed.
Middlesex's reply was all rather embarrassing. Three of the middle order - Paul Stirling, Neil Dexter and Adam London - fell to a variety of miscued pulls as Ravi Rampaul continued his nagging form from the Test series and Russell produced a lively opening spell. There was just time for Gayle to finish the game with two in three balls, both wickets met with his unique celebrations.
Eoin Morgan was not in the side despite his limited cricket so far this season and recent return to form with a 49-ball hundred in the CB40. Instead, he had a net on the Nursery Ground ahead of linking up with the England squad in Southampton on Thursday.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo