Fourth one-day international, Barbados: England 136-1 (18.3 overs) beat West Indies 239-9 (50 overs) by nine wickets (D/L method) Target reduced to 135 from 20 overs
By Jamie Lillywhite
Strauss led from the front fluently, more reminiscent of Chris Gayle
Andrew Strauss struck an unbeaten 79 as England levelled the one-day series with a nine-wicket win with nine balls left under the Duckworth-Lewis system.
West Indies made 239-9 from their 50 overs, Chris Gayle firing five sixes in 46 and, after Dimitri Mascarenhas took 3-26, Dwayne Bravo hit 69 off 72 balls.
England's target was cut to 135 from 20 overs after rain but Strauss shared 108 in 14.3 with Ravi Bopara who made 35.
The captain hit nine fours and a six to set up a decider in St Lucia on Friday.
It was only England's second victory of an arduous winter, and was an impressive recovery from the debacle at the same ground only two days earlier when they were bowled out for 117.
With so much rain about, there was serious danger of the game being abandoned, but the weather finally cleared and the challenge became in essence a moderate Twenty20 chase.
There were also eight overs of powerplays - a four and two twos - as opposed to the usual six in domestic Twenty20.
But the England batting was weakened firstly by Kevin Pietersen having to bat at number seven after leaving the field with a back injury having bowled only five balls of his gentle off-spin.
Andrew Flintoff would also have batted much lower down the order after sustaining a thumb injury, which X-rays thankfully revealed was not a fracture, while attempting a near impossible low return catch.
But Strauss defied critics of his one-day style and played with great freedom, taking advantage of some early width from Lionel Baker to fire four successive boundaries in the third over.
The running and intent was positive as the 50 came up from 5.2 overs, but on 39 Strauss had a reprieve.
He edged Kieron Pollard to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin who claimed an excellent low diving catch, but umpire Steve Bucknor, in his final international after 128 Tests and 181 ODIs spanning 20 years, wisely referred the decision and Strauss was given the benefit of the doubt.
At the halfway stage the requirement was 68 from 60 balls and with Bopara working the singles in a vital foil, Strauss soon recorded his 15th one-day fifty.
The England captain took the two overs of batting powerplay after 13 overs and backed away to hit Darren Sammy over cover for four, followed by a magnificent drive over long-on for a flat six.
Bravo's cavalier innings gave the West Indies a useful total
Bopara launched one ball off Pollard over midwicket and onto the roof of the Greenidge and Haynes stand, before failing to connect properly when trying something similar and holing out to fine-leg, leaving 27 needed from 33 balls.
Matt Prior joined Strauss, and it was his captain who fittingly guided the winning runs with a boundary down to third man.
The Windies innings fluctuated, Gayle taking eight balls to get off the mark but doing so not with a nudge off his pads, but a mighty swipe for six off Stuart Broad.
Next ball, however, he should have departed, when the shrewd Broad pitched one well up and trapped him low on the pad, but umpire Steve Davis rejected the appeal even though replays suggested it would have knocked out the leg-stump.
The skipper proceeded to play some magnificently savage strokes, with even top edges disappearing many rows back. He was ably supported by Lendl Simmons, who played some stylish and deceptively powerful strokes.
James Anderson began well with an excellent line and subtle movement, but when he was casually flicked off his pads for six by Simmons, Strauss decided it was time for Flintoff.
However, the big Lancastrian's first ball was contemptuously launched over midwicket for six by Gayle, who continued in fine style as five fours and four sixes came in the first powerplay.
But Broad dislodged the home captain with a disguised slower shorter ball that was top-edged and Prior took a safe catch.
In the next over Simmons saw his promising innings come to an unsatisfactory end when Ramnaresh Sarwan called for a second run only to change his mind with his partner mid-pitch, and a smart pick up and throw from Mascarenhas and a neat take from Prior ran him out.
Whether unsettled by that incident or not, Sarwan did not settle and when Flintoff angled one in at pace, his inside edge rattled back on to the stumps.
Ramdin steadied things with Shivnarine Chanderpaul but the scoring was gentle and, in trying to accelerate it, he top-edged Mascarenhas to mid-on and Flintoff toppled back to take a good catch above his head.
A short break for rain did little for Chanderpaul's fluency and he edged Mascarenhas, Prior taking a sharp chance at the wicket.
Mascarenhas then collected his third wicket when Flintoff brilliantly judged one on the boundary and managed to pirouette deftly back inside the ropes without his big size 11's crossing the boundary boards.
Darren Sammy was beaten for pace and inward movement by Broad, while Nikita Miller wrenched something trying to knock the cover off the ball, but Bravo played a mixture of bold, outrageous and masterful shots as 50 came off the five batting powerplay overs.
It seemed as though the Windies had mustered more than England would have liked having been 173-7, but the tourists showed admirable, and some might say long overdue, spirit to chase down the target and will go into the deciding match with a renewed vigour.
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