England captain Eoin Morgan toasted Jason Roy’s unflagging self-belief and hailed Joe Root as “our rock” after the pair’s brilliant centuries led England to a record-breaking win in the first one-day international against the West Indies.
Asked to complete the biggest chase in their history, 361, England’s fearless limited-overs side stared down the challenge and came out on top, triumphing by seven wickets with eight deliveries remaining.
Having watched 39-year-old Chris Gayle unload 12 sixes on his way to 135 in the first innings, Roy accepted the challenge with a 65-ball ton of his own to give the reply the adrenaline shot it needed.
The Surrey man finished with 123, with 15 boundaries and two maximums, having taken a healthy chunk out of the asking rate.
After he and Root shared a fine century stand the latter did the same again in partnership with Morgan, grinding the West Indies down with his ability to keep the scoreboard moving and release pressure.
Root fell just before the line, holing out for 102 with the scores tied, but his composure never flagged.
“For Jason to go on and play such a commanding innings really sets us up for such a big run chase,” said an admiring Morgan.
“It’s amazing, the way he plays. To come out and show the courage he does and the trust that he does. It’s brilliant.
“People will forget Joe scored a hundred there too, he made it look very easy, but we’re so fortunate to have a guy like that who can be our rock. He’s no slouch.”
Jonny Bairstow played a minor role by comparison, first man down for 34, but Morgan highlighted an electric opening stand of 91 between him and Roy as a pivotal period.
Gayle, fresh from his 24th century in the format and newly installed as international cricket’s number one six-hitter (overtaking Shahid Afridi with his first of the day), is the obvious touchstone and Morgan was happy to draw comparisons.
“The manner we started set the tone of the innings, Jason and Jonny were outstanding,” said Morgan.
“They do show similar attributes to Chris, who’s been doing it for 20 years. That ability to put your best ball away for four or six is heartbreaking as a bowler.
“To have guys like that continuously putting pressure on your opening bowlers is not only difficult to play against but difficult to captain against as well.”
Gayle, the self-styled ‘Universe Boss’, did his talking at the halfway stage of the game, while it still looked like his might be the decisive contribution of the day.
“I raised the West Indies flag a bit high since it’s my last home series (before retiring),” he told Sky Sports.
“It’s best to keep the Windies flag high and make sure everybody has a chance to see it. This is one of my best innings to be honest with you.
“It took me a while to get my first boundary, but at the same time, I stuck at it and eventually like in life, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
In the end it was England who finished strongest, taking a 1-0 lead and leaving their hosts wondering what kind of total they will need to be safe in the next four matches.