Every team likes to make an early statement at a World Cup, and England made theirs – with an exclamation mark – on a sweltering evening in the Gulf.
By bowling out defending champions West Indies for 55, they got their quest to unite the white-ball trophies off to the perfect start.
And while their mini-chase was less than resounding, victory by six wickets with 11.4 overs to spare meant an early boost for their net run-rate in what could prove a tight group.
Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler celebrate getting England over the line against the Windies
Really, this was an annihilation, and you don’t find many of those in the ultra-professional era of Twenty20.
‘It’s as good as it gets,’ said Eoin Morgan. ‘To start our campaign like that, all credit to our bowling unit.’
If the events of Kolkata 2016 – Carlos Brathwaite, Ben Stokes and the rest of it – were at the back of England’s minds, as West Indies captain Kieron Pollard had suggested they might be, then they hid it well.
Buttler and Morgan steadied the ship for England after the top order wobbled in the chase
Buttler finished unbeaten on 24 as England won their T20 World Cup opener in Dubai
A West Indian procession lasting just 14.2 overs was set in motion by Moeen Ali, who held a superb running catch over his shoulder to send back Evin Lewis, and hustled through his off-spin to take two for 17, including a wicket-maiden in the powerplay.
It was the most economical four-over spell of his England career.
And the rout was rounded off by his friend Adil Rashid, who hoovered up four for two – England’s best T20 analysis.
‘We wouldn’t have expected that,’ he said, providing the understatement of the night.
Adil Rashid (left) took four wickets in 2.2 overs as England bowled out the Windies for 55
In between, there were two cheap wickets for the left-arm quick Tymal Mills, playing his first game for his country since February 2017, and a blemish-free performance in the field. Interviewed mid-game, a beaming Mills reflected on a ‘dream start’.
Easy business, international cricket.
Marshalling it all was Morgan, whose lack of runs can feel like a minor inconvenience on evenings such as these.
He kept Ali on against the left-handers, and against the right-handers used Rashid, whose slider to bowl Andre Russell through the gate for a second-ball duck might have been the game’s champagne moment in a boozier part of the world.
Only the latest instalment in the long-running saga of Mark Wood’s left ankle removed any gloss off England’s evening.
The all-rounder finished with 2-17 and took a stunning catch for England’s first wicket
He had an injection after feeling a niggle following the warm-up match against New Zealand, but should be fit for Wednesday’s second game against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi.
Wood’s absence meant there was room for all three of Ali, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone – and all three left their mark.
After catching Lewis, Ali persuaded Lendl Simmons to heave to deep midwicket, where Livingstone barely had to move.
Chris Gayle was the only West Indian batter to reach double-digit as he scored 13 runs
Ali then had Shimron Hetmyer caught by Morgan at mid-on, and West Indies closed a disastrous powerplay on 31 for four when Malan, backpedalling furiously on the leg side, caught Chris Gayle off Mills.
In the land of liquid gold, everything England touched glistened.
Chris Jordan struck with his second ball, carved low to backward point by Dwayne Bravo, and Rashid with his first – the peach to Russell.
Had Ravi Rampaul edged a googly, as he nearly did, Rashid would have had a hat-trick.
Tylan Mills (centre) also took two wickets as England skittled the defending champions
West Indies’ shot selection was awful. Only once have they made fewer in T20 cricket: England skittled them for 45 at Basseterre in March 2019.
And only one team have made fewer at a T20 World Cup: the Netherlands twice, both against Sri Lanka – including their 44 all out at Sharjah on Friday.
‘It was unacceptable,’ said Pollard. ‘We take full responsibility for what transpired out there. For us, it’s pretty simple: accept and move on.’
At the back of the media centre, their former captain Clive Lloyd, chuntering away at the ineptitude, wasn’t ready to do that just yet.
Kieron Pollard admitted the West Indies’ performance against England was ‘unacceptable’
West Indies are the only team to have won this trophy twice; on this evidence, a third triumph looks beyond them.
But they did not give up with the ball.
Ravi Rampaul’s slower one did for Jason Roy, before left-arm spinner Akeal Hossain held a pair of smart return catches to see off Jonny Bairstow and Livingstone. In between, Ali was needlessly run out.
England’s pragmatic decision to massage their net run-rate meant Malan – usually their No 3 – kept getting shunted down the order.
Akeal Hossain took a stunning catch to get rid of Liam Livingstone as England fell to 39-4
The West Indies made inroads in England’s batting line-up but could not defend their low total
In the end, he wasn’t needed at all, as Jos Buttler ensured against a second horrible collapse, and Morgan reacquainted himself with the feel of bat on ball, pulling left-arm seamer Obed McCoy for a meaty four.
After all the build-up, the whole thing felt like an anticlimax, but it was the kind of anticlimax England will settle for in the weeks ahead.
This was their first win in six attempts against West Indies at a T20 World Cup, and one of their most impressive at any global event. At least for a few days, they can breathe a little more freely.
Morgan played some nice shots as England cruised over the line against the Windies
Stationed at mid-off, Moeen ran backwards chasing a skier from Evin Lewis and took a terrific running catch over his shoulder to draw first blood.
In the next over, Moeen, who bowled his four overs on the trot, had Lendl Simmons caught in the deep and the spinner returned to dismiss Shimron Hetmyer to jolt West Indies.
The middle order did hardly any better as Tymal Mills dismissed Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran, while Chris Jordan removed Dwayne Bravo to further turn the screws.
England take on Bangladesh on Wednesday in their second T20 World Cup match
Rashid then ran through the bottom half of the West Indies line-up, dismissing Kieron Pollard and Obed McCoy off successive deliveries.
Gayle’s 13 was the only double digit score in West Indies’ abject batting capitulation against England’s fiery attack.
Rashid sent down 14 deliveries, conceded only two runs and claimed four wickets in a terrific display of spin bowling.