Audacious Russell powers Windies to series lead

Andre Russell (left) and Rovman Powell enjoy a chat during their match-winning stand in the opening Twenty20 International against Bangladesh at Warner Park. (Photo courtesy CWI Media)

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, CMC – All-rounder Andre Russell showcased his explosive hitting in a devastating cameo as he fired West Indies to a seven-wicket victory under Duckworth-Lewis-Stern, in the opening Twenty20 International against Bangladesh at Warner Park.

Chasing a revised target of 91 off 11 overs after rain during the interval delayed the start of the their run chase, West Indies motored to their target to get over the line with 11 deliveries to spare, with the clock just having ticked past midnight into the early hours of Wednesday.

Russell bludgeoned an unbeaten 35 off 21 balls, which included three fours and sixes while veteran Marlon Samuels stroked a typically classy 26 from 13 balls.

The Windies were slumping at 10 for two in the second over when Russell, promoted to number three, inspired two rollicking stands to wrench the advantage away from the visitors.

First, he put on 42 off 22 deliveries for the third wicket with Samuels before adding a further 41 from 21 balls in an unbroken fourth wicket stand with Rovman Powell (15 not out), who ended the match with a giant six over long-on off captain and left-arm spinner Shakib-al-Hasan.

Bangladesh had earlier gotten a top score of 35 from Madmudullah as they tallied a below-par 143 for nine, after they were sent in.

Liton Das chipped in with 24 but support throughout the innings was lacking as West Indies made crucial strikes at key stages to stall the visitors’ progress.

Fast bowler Kesrick Williams was at the forefront of the attack, finishing with four for 28 while off-spinner Ashley Nurse (2-6) and seamer Keemo Paul (2-24) supported with two wickets apiece.

West Indies got off to a dream start when off-spinner Ashley Nurse grabbed two wickets inside the first four balls of the game, to stun Bangladesh up front.

With just the first ball of the encounter, Nurse had Tamim smartly stumped, after the left-hander charged and missed one deliberately pushed a bit wider.

Left-hander Soumya Sarkar followed his opening partner quickly afterwards, playing back to Nurse and going bowled, also without scoring with five runs on the board.

Das and captain Shakib-al-Hasan (19) then repaired the innings in a third-wicket stand worth 38, as Bangladesh found their footing somewhat.

The right-handed Das had struck three fours in a 21-ball knock when he tried to pull a quick one from Paul and miscued to Andre Fletcher at square leg.

Off the very next ball, Shakib was undone by Williams’ brilliance on the third man ropes, the fielder jumping to haul in the catch – releasing the ball as his momentum took him over the ropes – before stepping back onto the field to complete the catch.

With the visitors desperately in need of a partnership at 43 for four in the sixth over, the experienced Mahmudullah came to his side’s rescue, posting 47 for the fifth wicket with wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim (15).

The right-handed Mahmudullah stroked three fours and a couple of sixes off 27 deliveries while Mushfiqur faced 11 deliveries and counted two fours.

Mahmudullah exploded from a quiet start to punish luckless leg-spinner Samuel Badree in the seventh over, smashing back-to-back fours before clearing the ropes at long on with the final ball of the over.

Paul also suffered in the next over as Mahmudullah lifted him over long off for his second six but Williams got the breakthrough when he had Mushfiqur caught at third man by Powell in the 10th over.

Williams then ensured there was no revival of the innings, grabbing three of the next four wickets to fall to put the Windies in control.

Pacer Russell clipped the bails to bowl Ariful Haque for 15 before Williams got Mahmudullah’s prized wicket, the batsman deceived and bowled by a slower dipping yorker in the 17th over with Bangladesh struggling at 125 for seven.

Needing to score at just over eight runs an over, the Windies got 10 runs from the first over but then lost two wickets in the second when Evin Lewis (2) top-edged left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman to third man and Fletcher (7) edged a cut behind.

Any hopes of an upset were then dashed, however, as Russell arrived at the crease early. Showing no signs of the injury which kept him out of the last two ODIs last week, Russell tore into the Bangladesh bowling with relish.

In one over from Mustafizur, the right-hander plundered 20 runs as he belted three fours and a huge six over mid-wicket.

Samuels struck a pair of fours and sixes in a 13-ball knock before holing out in the deep off pacer Rubel Hossain in the sixth over but his was the last wicket to fall as Powell, who crunched a brace of sixes off nine balls, helped Russell secure the result.

The last two matches of the series will be a weekend doubleheader at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Fort Lauderale, United States.

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