ST JOHN’S: Eoin Morgan’s 10th ODI century provided the batting foundation while seamers Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes took four wickets each as England defeated the West Indies by 45 runs in the series opener on Friday.
Extending an excellent run of form from the previous ODI series in India in January, the England captain stroked a polished 107 to pace the tourists to a competitive 296 for six.
Plunkett and Woakes then claimed four wickets each to thwart the home side's effort for an upset victory.
Half-centuries by Jason Mohammed and Jonathan Carter were not enough as the West Indies were dismissed for 251 in the 48th over, Plunkett taking the final wicket to finish with his best ODI figures of four for 40.
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Woakes, who did the early damage to the Caribbean side's batting, returned with four for 47.
"It was tough at the start out there but the rewards eventually came by sticking it out," said Morgan. "I thought it was a dominant performance overall by us and we've set a high standard for the remaining two matches."
Accelerating from a painstaking start, Morgan timed the innings to perfection in lifting his team to a competitive total after they were put in to bat on a rain-interrupted morning at North Sound.
The Ireland-born faced 116 deliveries and struck 11 fours and two sixes after coming to the crease with his side in early trouble after fast bowler Shannon Gabriel removed opening batsman Jason Roy and new Test skipper Joe Root in successive overs.
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Sam Billings contributed 52 at the top of the order, but his demise to Ashley Nurse was compounded when the off-spinner also accounted for Jos Buttler via an excellent slip catch by Carter.
That dismissal brought in Ben Stokes and the aggressive all-rounder did not disappoint, belting 55 off 61 deliveries with three sixes and seizing the initiative from the West Indies with a 110-run fifth-wicket partnership, ended by a catch at long-on off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.
Morgan reached three figures in fine style, hoisting Carlos Brathwaite for a huge six over midwicket in the 48th over before the bowler had the last laugh, running out the left-hander in the final over of the innings.
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Woakes and Plunkett reduced the West Indies to 39 for three in reply before Mohammed featured in successive half-century partnerships with Shai Hope and Carter to keep the hosts in with a fighting chance heading into the final ten overs.
However, England's perseverance paid off and when Mohammed was run out for a top score of 72 in the 42nd over, the die was cast for the West Indies despite a few bold hits by Carlos Brathwaite and Ashley Nurse.
"I thought we competed well throughout the match but just too many wickets to soft dismissals," said West Indies captain Jason Holder. "This is no time to drop our heads because we are encouraged by this effort and need to come back even stronger on Sunday."
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