England took a comprehensive 143-point victory over the West Indies in the first one-day international match in Antigua.
After being put at bat, Nat Sciver’s 90 balls from 96 took England to 307-7.
England slipped to 127-4 before a 102 partnership between Sciver and Danni Wyatt, who made it 68, brought the game back in favor of the tourists.
Spinner Charlie Dean then took it 4-35 as West Indies fell to 165 with 9.3 overs remaining.
It was an impressive comeback for Sciver, who took a break after the Commonwealth Games in August, and a first win for England under new coach Jon Lewis.
The West Indies batters struggled to keep up the pace throughout the chase, which was interrupted by star player Hayley Matthews who was taken off the field with cramps when she was eight years old.
Kycia Knight and Rashada Williams led the hosts 84-1 before Dean’s spell triggered a dramatic meltdown, with Matthews returning to bat but only managing to score 34.
There was also an injury concern for England as Alice Capsey landed awkwardly on her left shoulder trying to save a boundary.
The 18-year-old left the pitch to be assessed by the medical team and did not return for the rest of the game.
The series continues with the second ODI at the same venue on Tuesday.
Sciver saves England again
England started frantically with the bat, perhaps unsurprisingly given they haven’t played since losing to India in late September.
During this run, England have struggled without the experience of Sciver, Knight and Katherine Brunt and while there have been some promising moments for emerging talent, it has shown the team need to avoid reliance on senior players.
Capsey, promoted to the opener in place of Emma Lamb, played with her trademark aggression – breaking three boundaries before taking a loose drive behind Cherry-Ann Fraser.
Sophia Dunkley was brilliantly caught from cover by Shakera Selman, Tammy Beaumont got off to the start before finding herself halfway through for 33 and skipper Heather Knight struggled to start, which was to be expected after being pushed aside by a injury since June.
Sciver, however, looked invigorated after her break from cricket, striking with confidence and controlled aggression to score all around the ground as she capitalized on sloppy West Indies ground.
Even her dismissal demonstrated her intent, continuing to attack even as she approached a century as a poorly shot ramp over her shoulder found itself in the hands of a thin little leg.
The all-rounder found valuable support from Wyatt, who was the aggressor in their fifth-wicket stand, maintaining a strike rate of over 100 throughout his innings to put the West Indies bowlers under pressure.
While Sciver’s return and Wyatt’s form are big positives for England, it’s vital their young hitters get stronger at some point in the series, especially ahead of February’s T20 World Cup.
The series begins with a one-sided affair
It was not a faultless performance from England – their erratic start with the bat was followed by several missed opportunities on the pitch – and yet it was a very comfortable win nonetheless.
The West Indies are a team in transition, struggling following the retirement of international talent Deandra Dottin and the absence of captain Stafanie Taylor through injury. They rely heavily on Matthews with bat and ball, and that was evident in the series’ first outing.
The most thrifty of bowlers and most comfortable with the bat, many would have feared the worst when she was on the floor in pain just four overs in their pursuit.
There were signs of promise from the rest, with Chenelle Henry taking 3-59 and Knight and Williams both making eye-catching 30s, but they will collectively need to improve considerably if they are to challenge England.
On Knight’s side, however, Sciver and Wyatt’s runs feel somewhat expected, such is their consistency. But the bowling was a fine all-around effort, with Kate Cross continuing to grow in her leading role in attack with 2-27 from eight overs, and Dean achieving the rare feat of outplaying Sophie Ecclestone.
After a disappointing end to the summer, England were hoping for an answer in Antigua – and they delivered one.