A brilliant hundred from skipper, Eoin Morgan, and fine bowling performances from Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett helped England to a 45-run win over West Indies in the first ODI at Antigua.
West Indies won the toss and chose to bowl on a sluggish wicket and Shannon Gabriel justified the choice almost immediately by sending back Jason Roy and Joe Root in quick succession. However, Billings and Morgan provided resistance as West Indies struggled to break through.
Morgan went on to complete his 10th ODI hundred with Ben Stokes giving him company, who made a fighting half-century, and Moeen Ali, who played a nice cameo.
With 297 to win, West Indies had their task cut out against Woakes and Plunkett who exploited the slowness of the track while bowling pacy bouncers as the odd delivery. Only Jonathan Carter and Jason Mohammed resisted in an 88-run stand with both scoring half-centuries. Once that stand was broken, West Indies barely challenged England.
Brief Scores: England 296/6 in 50 overs (Morgan 107, Stokes 55, Nurse 2/57) beat West Indies 251/10 in 47.2 overs (Mohammed 72, Plunkett 4/40, Woakes 4/47)
Have a glance at the talking points of the first ODI at Antigua.
#5 Billings flatters to deceive
Sam Billings would have known that he has limited opportunities to impress the England selectors, before Alex Hales, already back early from an injury, makes a return to the top of the order.
As though getting motivated from the news, Billings survived a hot spell from Shannon Gabriel early in the game to nurture a fine half-century. He had his skipper, Eoin Morgan for company, after Gabriel got the better of Jason Roy and Joe Root.
All of his seven boundaries had class written all over it but a creamy cover drive off Gabriel and a wristy flick off Brathwaite stood out as Billings raced a run a ball half-century. However, instead of making the chance count, the wicket-keeper batsman flicked Ashley Nurse straight to mid-wicket.
#4 Shannon Gabriel's spicy spell
Shannon Gabriel had knocked over the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in the triangular series last year with his fiery pace and movement though the air. On a slow wicket, the broad-shouldered fast bowler once again found his rhythm.
He had Jason Roy trapped right in front of the middle stump with a back of a length delivery that skidded off the surface to rap his pads. Gabriel had shown the ability to make the ball move quickly through the air and skid off the wicket previously too.
If Roy was a prized scalp, a bigger prize was yet to come from the West Indian. In his next over, he had Joe Root's stumps in tatters with another skiddy ball that kept low to beat his bat. Billings and Morgan played him with relative ease later on and his figures took a beating.
#3 Morgan slams patient hundred
Eoin Morgan has been in fine nick for England of late. Overcoming his initial captaincy blues, Morgan has stepped up his batting in England colours recently. Walking in at 29/2 and Gabriel rocking at Antigua, Morgan stitched together a 67 run stand with Billings.
He was outstanding against the spin duo of Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo on a slow wicket and never allowed them to settle down into a rhythm. He even brought out his favourite reverse shots against the leggie and put England on course for a fantastic total.
The wicket was slow and batting was more difficult than Morgan made it out to be. He was quick on his feet and used whatever pace was available to good effect. A forehand smash off Jason Holder showed the kind of form he was in. A breathtaking shot off Brathwaite that sailed over long-on brought up his 10th One day hundred.
#2 Chris Woakes matches Gabriel with sizzling opening spell
Chris Woakes is a key figure in England's line-up these days in all formats of the game. The tall and wily seamer had been the architect of much of England's victories since last summer and has more than replaced James Anderson in the limited over squads.
Woakes was once again on top of his game on a slow Antigua wicket. He knew that he had to make the batsmen play and offer less pace. The cutters and slower deliveries were bowled to perfection even when he kept finding some natural movement.
Woakes got one of his cutters to deceive Evin Lewis, who edged a shot to deep square leg. In his next over, he unleashed another cutter that Kraigg Brathwaite misread to chip straight to the mid-on fielder. His figures after the opening spell read 5-1-18-2. He returned to take two more to finish with a four-wicket haul.
#1 Liam Plunkett uses his chance
Plunkett is one of the fastest bowlers in England. With an ability to hit the deck hard and generate swing and seam, he is a handful in favourable conditions. Since England have had a plethora of options with the ball, Plunkett has been largely restricted to the sidelines.
With an opportunity in his hands at Antigua, Plunkett brought out his A game. He had Kieran Powell early on edging a pull to Jason Roy at point. He returned to break the Carter-Mohammad partnership by having Carter caught in the deep off a good bouncer.
He prized out Jason Holder in his very next over, once again using his pace and bounce. By cleaning up Gabriel's stumps, Plunkett finished with figures of 8.2-1-40-4.