Jos Buttler and Chris Gayle went toe-to-toe with two titanic centuries as England defeated the West Indies by 29 runs in a scintillating fourth one-day international in Grenada.
Buttler made a swaggering, career-best 150 in 77 balls, blazing his last hundred runs in just 31 deliveries as England posted what looked a mountainous total of 418 for six.
But the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ soon set nerves racing, setting up an adrenaline-fuelled finale by smashing 162.
A bold late salvo from Carlos Brathwaite and Ashley Nurse left the hosts needing 32 from 18 balls to make the second largest chase in ODI history but Adil Rashid seized the moment in staggering fashion – wiping out the Windies last four wickets in the 48th over to bowl them out for 389.
Despite the leg-spinner’s dramatic late intervention, Gayle and Buttler were the day’s headline acts, hitting 26 sixes and 24 boundaries between them in furious display of power-hitting.
England ultimately had the stronger supporting cast, Eoin Morgan made a brilliant 103 of his own during a 204-run stand with Buttler while Mark Wood and Rashid stood out from the pack on a surface that saw others bullied into submission.
While the West Indies chase did not end up in the history books England’s tally of 24 maximums – half of which came from Buttler’s blade – did break new ground, eclipsing the record of 23 they conceded in Barbados at the start of the series.
England’s innings was the highest ever on Caribbean soil and sits third on their all-time list, achievements that would not have been possible without a stunning attack that brought 154 runs from the final 10 overs.
Nods are due to Jonny Bairstow’s 56 and Alex Hales’ 82 – the latter deputising for the injured Jason Roy – but although they set the tone for a day of heavy hitting their efforts would soon be eclipsed.
Buttler and Morgan came together at 165 for three, Joe Root having fallen cheaply, and heaped on another 204 runs together in less than 21 overs.
The pair were both hovering around a run-a-ball until the 40th over, only then unleashing the full force of their aggression.
The middle of Buttler’s bat took a colossal pounding as he moved from 50 to 100 in 15 dizzying deliveries that included a drop on 93, and again as he raced to 150. Buttler’s merry hitting continued right through to the final over, but he was denied a not out by the perseverance of Brathwaite.
Gayle is one of a handful of players on the planet who would not shirk from chasing 419 and the 39-year-old Jamaican picked up Buttler’s baton with a breathtaking ton of his own.
Denied the luxury of settling in time, he teed off immediately, clattering England’s Mr Reliable Chris Woakes for five sixes in nine balls. Having poked Gayle’s ego with their own display of muscle, England were now on the receiving end.
Stokes was next to feel the wrath, with two fours and two sixes from the all-rounder’s first four balls. Things did not get any better in a ragged four-over spell that contained full tosses, wides and even an accidental beamer.
Wood was fighting a lone resistance, removing John Campbell and Shai Hope with the new ball and returning in his second spell to add Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer in the same over. But the game lived and died on the arc of Gayle’s bat.
#WIvENG So Close! 😩 A brave batting performance to pursue 418 runs but falling short by 29 runs. 🌴🏴— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) February 27, 2019
Chris Gayle - 162 (97 balls)
Darren Bravo - 61 (59balls)
Carlos Brathwaite - 50 (36 balls)#MenInMaroon #ItsOurGame pic.twitter.com/yFRlwCXZlJ
Gayle ticked off a shopping list of targets – 50 up in 32 balls, a 10,000th one-day run and then his hundred in 55 balls – but was fatigued by the time Stokes took his stumps on 162.
The final equation left the Windies seeking 95 from the last 10 overs, with Brathwaite and Nurse surpassing low expectations in a boundary-strewn cameo that threatened to add one final twist to a day full of entertainment.
They were on the cusp of something special when Rashid kept his composure, tempting both into mis-hits that were held with nerves of steel by Morgan and Liam Plunkett. He polished off Devendra Bishoo and Oshane Thomas in a hurry, providing a swift end to a superb battle.