NZ cruise past West Indies

Another disappointing turnout of local support, another disappointing performance by the home team. After what turned out to be their second heavy defeat in two days in a Sir Vivian Richards Stadium almost more heavily populated by New Zealand supporters than locals, the West Indies face a tough task from here to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2007 World Cup. In complete contrast to that, their vanquishers today are in a relatively comfortable position. Apart from tournament-ending injuries to Daryl Tuffey and Lou Vincent, the New Zealanders have had a perfect tournament so far and seem to be getting better with each game, and now need only to beat Ireland and Bangladesh and one other team to guarantee their place in the semis.

As usual the early conditions favoured the bowlers and so it was a good toss to win, but after Stephen Fleming did so his bowlers performed absolutely brilliantly and made perfect use of the bowler-friendly conditions in the first few overs. The pitch dried out after about ten overs and so really cannot be used as an excuse by the West Indies after collapsing to 177.

They survived the testing early period relatively unscathed, losing only Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the first 15 overs. Although Shane Bond was again dangerous and Michael Mason was tidy, it looked as though the home team was handling them well. Chris Gayle, so often a destroyer of opposition attacks, looked to be putting memories of a so far terrible tournament behind him as he rapidly moved through to 44, but when Jacob Oram ended his innings there the score became 81-4 and the problems had well and truly begun.

It must have been demoralising for the West Indies to have seen off the early threat of Bond only to run in to Oram and Daniel Vettori with each bowling far better than they have to date in the tournament. Oram looked a completely different player to the one who has been struggling with the ball since returning to international cricket in January, returning to his very best with a superb spell of 3-23 from 8 overs. Vettori too was at his brilliant best, going some way to rectifying his ridiculously bad World Cup average with an excellent spell of 3-39 from 9.

The regular fall of wickets made it impossible for the West Indies to rebuild at any stage, despite a valiant attempt to do so by captain Brian Lara. He only made 37 though before his wicket was the sixth to fall with the score at 150. From there it was extremely unlikely that the West Indies would bat out their 50 overs or get a score that they could confidently defend.

When the innings ended at 177 the home team was left regretting its unusual decision at the start of the game to leave out dangerous new-ball bowler Jerome Taylor in favour of batsman Lendl Simmons, who batted at the low position of number eight and as a result didn’t have much of a role to play.

They regretted it even more when Daren Powell once again provided the early breakthroughs with the wickets of Peter Fulton and Hamish Marshall but no other bowler was able to provide support at the other end.

This allowed New Zealand to rebuild after the early losses and get their chase back on track, which they did through a solid 45 from Fleming and then an excellent partnership between Craig McMillan and Scott Styris which saw them through to the target, with the latter finishing on 80 not out after a high-quality and well-paced innings.

It was New Zealand’s seventh consecutive ODI win and their best performance so far in the tournament. They may not be favourites to win the World Cup, but in this form they are going to be difficult for any team to get past.

West Indies meanwhile have a lot to think about. Coming into the tournament confident of becoming the first host team ever to win the Cup after making the final of the Champions Trophy last year, the team have been disappointed by both the crowd turnout and particularly their own performance. While it would have been hard for them and indeed most teams to beat New Zealand on their form today, they should have performed better than they did. The bizarre omission of Jerome Taylor undoubtedly played a part, but the batsmen should have given the bowlers a better score to bowl at in the first place.

They face an uphill task from here to make the semi-finals, but they way they’ve played in the last couple of days they have only themselves to blame.

West Indies 177 all out
Chris Gayle 44, Brian Lara 37
Jacob Oram 3-23, Shane Bond 3-31

New Zealand 179-3
Scott Styris 80 no, Stephen Fleming 45
Daren Powell 2-39

New Zealand won by 7 wickets

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Scott Styris – 1-35, 80 no

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