Kandy, Sri Lanka – Johnson Charles announced himself on the world stage with a match-winning half-century as West Indies made a great start to the Super Eights at the ICC World T20 tournament.
The 23-year-old opener cracked 84 off just 56 balls to set-up a victory by 15 runs over England, in front a sell-out crowd at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Thursday night. The result gave the Windies their first win of the tournament and moved them to the top of Group 1 in the second phase of the competition.
Charles featured in a brilliant opening stand of 103 off 11 overs with Chris Gayle, who cracked 54 off 35 balls with six boundaries and four sixes, as the West Indies rallied to make 179-8 off 20 overs.
Ravi Rampaul started the ball rolling with two wickets in the first over as England made 165-4 off their 20 overs. There was also some good bowling from Chris Gayle, with his quick off-spin, and leg-spinner Samuel Badree, who used the new ball in his first match; and excellent fielding by Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard on the edge of the boundary.
Charles was pleased with his effort, which won him the Man-of-the-Match award.
“I’m pretty happy. Getting Man-of-the-Match in this T20 World Cup tournament feels good and what is great about it is the fact that we went on to win the match. This is my first major contribution for the West Indies and I’m delighted that it led to a victory at this stage in the tournament,” he said.
Charles made his international debut last September against England and returned to the team for the Digicel Series against Australia in March. He entered the Sagicor High Performance Centre in June and said that has been a great boost to his development on and off the field.
“The HPC has helped me very much. Since going there I have improved my fitness and my approach to the game. I have been working on my batting, especially the start of my innings – how to go about my innings, how to build a big score. I have been doing a lot more batting than at any stage in my career and I have placed a lot more emphasis on fitness. It is an allround programme and after just four months I have seen some of the benefits,” Charles said.
The knock was the highest score for Charles in West Indies colours surpassing the 37 he made against Australia in Barbados earlier this year. The strongly-built right-hander said he relished the chance to play in front such a large number of spectators and enjoyed bating with Gayle. Throughout his innings Charles played some stunning shots with ten fours and three huge sixes into the crowd.
“If you’re batting with Chris Gayle you know his ability, you know what he can do … you just have to give him the strike, sit back and watch. He’s that type of player, he just explodes … he keeps it lively, and that takes the pressure off you. Just as Gayle can hit the ball far, I back myself to be able to hit the ball long and far and score quickly as well,” Charles added.
“Once he (Gayle) got out I had to take the leading role and take it from there. There was still some work to do as we were looking for a big total, so I knew I had to keep going and set the platform. I will look to build on this start and look to achieve greater things for the West Indies. I always had the belief that I could perform and now I have proven it, it’s time to be consistent and make a contribution all the time.”
West Indies will have fitness and planning sessions at the team hotel on Friday as they prepare for Saturday’s second Super Eights match against Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. First ball in the night match is 7:30 pm (10 am Eastern Caribbean Time/9 am Jamaica Time).
West Indies Super Eights schedule
Thursday, Sept 27: West Indies beat England by 15 runs at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Saturday, Sept 29: vs Sri Lanka at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium – 7:30 pm
Monday, Oct 1: vs New Zealand at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium – 3:30 pm
Thursday, October 4: Super 8 Group 1-1 vs Super 8 Group 2-2 – R Premadasa Stadium
Friday, October 5: Super 8 Group 2-1 vs Super 8 Group 1-2 – R Premadasa Stadium
Grand Final: Sunday, October 7 – R Premadasa Stadium