West Indies 326 for 6 (Hope 109*, Athanaze 66) beat England 325 (Brook 71) by four wickets
So much for a white-ball reboot. Three weeks after their disastrous World Cup campaign came to an end, England suffered defeat to West Indies in the first ODI in Antigua, trumped by four wickets thanks to a magnificent 109 not out from Shai Hope.
That they reached their target of 326 with seven balls to spare was down to Romario Shepherd's 48 from just 28 deliveries, coming at a time when the hosts looked to be circling the drain. West Indies were 213 for 5 in the 39th over, seemingly having wasted an unbeaten opening stand of 104 between Alick Athanaze and Brandon King. Shepherd, having overturned an lbw decision against him with just three runs to his name, breathed life into the chase with his powerful cameo.
By the time he departed lbw to Gus Atkinson, the equation was a more palatable 24 from 17. Hope, who had found his six-hitting touch as Shepherd's understudy in their 89-run stand (from just 51 balls), finished the match with three sixes in four balls, all to the leg side. The second took him to a 14th ODI century from 82 deliveries, before immediately clearing the boundary for the seventh and final time to send the crowd wild.
Sam Curran was on the receiving end, not just of those final strikes but brutal treatment throughout the final stretch, leaving him nursing 0 for 98 from 9.5 overs - the worst ODI figures for an Englishman. Earlier on, his 38 had boosted England to 325 all out, with Harry Brook's 71 the standout in an innings littered with unconverted starts.
At the halfway stage, England's total - the highest achieved at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium - looked to have them comfortably out in front. But the hosts now possess that record by a single run, having clinched it in emphatic fashion.
Not for the first time in the last three months, Jos Buttler cut a forlorn figure, and registered another failure with the bat when dismissed for three. Having called correctly at the toss, his decision to bat first looked vindicated, particularly as Salt and Will Jacks raced to 77 for no loss after 8.2 overs.
By then, Hope had turned to Gudakesh Motie with the dual purpose of slowing the pace of the ball and rate of scoring. It did not take long for both to come to pass, and it was the start of what would turn out to be a big day for the West Indies captain. He would go on to pass 5,000 ODI runs in just his 114th innings, equalling Sir Vivian Richards' record as the fastest West Indian to the figure, with the man himself in situ at the ground bearing his name.
Motie, a left-arm orthodox spinner, removed Salt in his second over, albeit with a short, wide delivery that should have been hit anywhere but the hands of Keacy Carty at cover. Seven deliveries (and no runs) later, Alzarri Joseph, who had changed ends for Motie's introduction, produced a delivery with extra bounce and seam to remove Jacks for 26, caught behind by Hope, making it 77 for 2.
After Ben Duckett had inadvertently paddled legspinner Yannic Cariah into his leg stump, Zak Crawley and Brook managed 71 between them, taking the score to 181 for 4 midway through the 30th over. Their stand of 71 should have ended earlier; Crawley was dropped appallingly on 30 by Motie after skying an unconvincing slog-sweep off Cariah, before edging the leggie between keeper and slip on 33.
Brook's late call of "no" when Crawley then dropped and ran into the covers saw him run out by Athanaze. And when Buttler gloved a reverse sweep to first slip to give Motie his second dismissal, continuing a grim streak since the start of the World Cup of just 141 runs across 10 innings, the impetus looked to be draining from the innings.
Brook, with the help of Liam Livingstone, ensured that wasn't the case as the pair exchanged four sixes between them. The first from Brook ended a 33-ball wait for a boundary, as Shepherd was pulled high over deep midwicket, taking England beyond 200. A single off the next delivery moved the Yorkshireman to 50 from 58 for a third half-century in the format.
He began the next over from Cariah with a powerful slap-sweep behind square leg to clear the fence once more. Livingstone finished the over with back-to-back sixes to ensure 23 was ransacked from the 38th.
Livingstone's demise - lbw to a grubber from Shepherd - was as good an indicator as any of the changing nature of this surface and suggested the tourists were in good shape with the 232 they had in the 39th over. And though Brook walked off after failing to force Shepherd's slower ball beyond the reach of Joseph at mid-off - moments after Athanaze had almost pulled off a spectacular catch at backward point to remove him on 70 - a reinforced tail was able to provide the necessary final flourish.
Curran and Brydon Carse set about a blitz of 66 from 38 to lift the score beyond 300, to eventually set West Indies 326 for victory in the first of this three-match series.
If the late flourish looked to have lifted England comfortably above par, the start from Athanaze and King showed just how necessary it had been, as they got the chase up and running with 104 for the first wicket.
Athanaze's hooked six off Curran in a first over that went for 11 signalled his intent at least, finishing the powerplay with his second - another hook, this time off Atkinson - as West Indies reached 55 for no loss after 10 overs.
The languid left-hander had 41 of them at the time, eventually making it through to a second ODI half-century with an imperious cut off Carse at the start of the 15th over. That was the first of three boundaries in four balls - pulled in front of square, then another threaded behind point - as the Durham quick struggled for the right length.
But just as in the first innings, spin wrestled back control for the fielding side. Rehan Ahmed trapped a sweeping Athanazer lbw from around the wicket, then Livingstone bowled King seven deliveries later. By the time Keacy Carty's stodgy 16 off 39 was brought to an end by a scuttler from Carse (lbw) at the start of the 30th over, the required run rate had ticked to 8.70.
Hope was in his usual accumulation mode, and as Shimron Hetmyer came and went for 32, and Sherfane Rutherford's debut ODI knock lasted three deliveries, including a first-ball six and a second-ball DRS reprieve for lbw, before he was caught at deep square leg, giving Rehan his second wicket for impressive figures of 2 for 40, West Indies were up against it.
Hope, who had fetched Rehan straight down the ground amid the Rutherford drama to move to a 40th fifty-plus score from 51 deliveries, was always going to need a helping hand, and there was no guarantee it would come from Shepherd. The best of the 29-year-old's batting has primarily come on the franchise circuit, with just one international half-century in 35 white-ball innings.
Perhaps fuelled by his reprieve after being given lbw on the field to a Curran slower delivery, he puffed his chest out and showed clear method in his malice. After seeing out Rehan's final over, and with Livingstone already through his 10 overs with 1 for 50, a diet of seamers awaited on the back nine, with 101 to get. Using the pace on the ball, he and Hope picked their targets. Carse was taken for 11 in the 42, then Curran for 19 in the 43rd, with two slower balls heaved down the ground and over midwicket.
Curran was then taken for 15 in the 45th, this time Hope punishing a slower ball to the wind-assisted leg side, before he sent Carse the same way as the 47th went for 17. Atkinson held his own to go full and straight and pin Shepherd, but the damage had been done.
With 19 needed from 12, Hope took the opportunity to end the match sooner rather than later. Curran, clearly struggling, served up a full toss that was devoured for 93 metres over wide long-on, then followed a dot with an equally juicy length ball dispatched into the stands. Once Hope's subdued century celebrations were done, he blitzed a short ball back towards the same stand to really get the party started.
For England, there is yet more wound-licking to be done. Though this XI featured just six players who were on deck for the dismal World Cup campaign, the manner of this defeat feels on a par with some of those out in India. Worst of all, it has been inflicted by a team who were not even good enough to get there in the first place.