Two teams that had been inseparable for the majority of the match and indeed the series were explosively prised apart at the very last as Jason Holder took a sledgehammer to England’s victory chase by taking four wickets in the final four balls to seal victory by 17 runs.
In doing so he became the fourth bowler in international T20 history to take four wickets in as many balls, bringing a frequently thrilling series to a jaw-dropping conclusion. Adil Rashid observed afterwards that England’s problem was that “we just lost too many wickets in clusters”, but this was taking the problem to its logical extreme. “I thought to restrict them to 179, we were pretty pleased with that,” Rashid said, “but with the bat we just didn’t have enough partnerships.”
A career-best spell from Akeal Hosein, in which he took a wicket in each of his four overs and with Fabian Allen gradually whittled away England’s chances of victory in the middle overs, had set West Indies on the path to success and a 3-2 win in a series of slender margins, fluctuating fortunes and constant intrigue.
England started the final over needing 20 to win, and when Holder’s first act was to deliver a front-foot no-ball the tourists’ task seemed achievable. But from that moment on every player who got bat on ball only succeeded in lifting it to a fielder as Chris Jordan, Sam Billings and Rashid fell, before Saqib Mahmood was bowled to end proceedings with a ball to spare.
After a disappointing first match these teams had delivered a succession of compelling and high-quality contests before reaching the closing stages of the series simply refusing to be prised apart, tied as they were at 2-2 after four matches and with England, as West Indies had been earlier in the evening, at 86 for two after 10 overs. But while the hosts lost rhythm in the following phase of their innings, the tourists lost wickets.
Moeen Ali, who batted as if he had used up all his timing in compiling Saturday’s half-century, lifted the very next ball to cover, and Hosein delivered the wickets of Liam Livingstone, James Vince – who delivered a 35-ball 55 full of classy shot-making – and Phil Salt in successive overs. In 31 balls England had scored 33 and lost four wickets, and despite Billings’s 28-ball 41 there would be no comeback.
For the fourth time in five games West Indies won the toss, but for the first time they chose to bat. Their enthusiasm was understandable, given that the pitch on which both sides scored over 200 in the third game of the series was being reused, and though Reece Topley’s opening over was once again excellent, in the second they switched gears.
Mahmood had been out of the England team since the final over of the second game was mercilessly thrashed for 28. Here West Indies greeted his return in much the same style as they had caused his exile, Brandon King carting his opening delivery of the night over long-on for six before Kyle Mayers helped himself to a pulled six and similar four, the over costing 19 and setting the home side on course for a dominant powerplay.
But the momentum of the innings shifted immediately afterwards as England’s spinners once again took control. The six overs after the powerplay featured three wickets and three boundaries – between the second ball of the 11th over and the first of the 16th no delivery cost more than one run – and when Rovman Powell carted a Topley slower ball over midwicket in the 18th it ended a run of 42 balls without a boundary.
Powell, whose 53-ball 107 on this pitch had powered West Indies to victory on Wednesday, had to wait until the 15th over before coming to the crease and consequently faced only 17 deliveries this time. It seemed a serious misjudgment, particularly given the fact that once he finally arrived he scored even more quickly than he had then. He and West Indies plundered 65 off the final four overs, the latest demonstration of England’s death-over issues. Their total of 179 for four was well below mid-innings expectations but, in the most dramatic style, it would eventually prove enough.