West Indies Break Losing Streak

It may have been a dead rubber, but today’s 3-wicket win over New Zealand was a major victory to the West Indies, who have in recent months been suffering from one of their all-time worst losing streaks. They bowled well, particularly Dwayne Smith, to restrict New Zealand to a modest 233, and then after a shaky start judged their chase to perfection against a team who showed little respect for their opponents in resting their best ODI bowler in Daniel Vettori, and the visitors gained a well-deserved confidence-boosting win before the upcoming test series.

New Zealand’s innings could not be described as having the best of starts, as first Lou Vincent and then Nathan Astle fell, for 1 and 4 respectively, and the score was 8-2 in the fifth over, a start reminiscent of that in Queenstown earlier in the series. But Ross Taylor in just his second ODI, after having been run out on debut, provided some momentum in his brief but exciting 31. Taylor hit 7 fours in his 29-ball stay at the crease, lifting the score to 59 in the twelfth over before being the second batsman clean bowled by Ian Bradshaw.

Taylor’s innings seemed to get things on track for New Zealand, and Stephen Fleming and Scott Styris carried on the good work until the score reached 96 and Fleming was the fourth wicket to fall, well caught by Denesh Ramdin off the bowling of Smith for a promising 32. The trend of falling after getting a good start continued through Peter Fulton, Hamish Marshall and Brendon McCullum did the same. Fulton and Marshall both reached 19 before falling to Wavell Hinds and Smith respectively, while McCullum quickly reached 10 before being caught behind, giving Smith his fourth wicket.

Scott Styris was a rare exception to the trend though, staying at the crease until the 49th over in a crucial innings off 90. He uncharacteristically hit just four boundaries in his patient 119-ball knock, but it was crucial in guiding New Zealand through to the score they finished with. Trying to score some quick runs in the last few overs brought about the end of his innings though, going for a big straight hit only to hit it straight up in the air back to the bowler Smith, who took his fifth wicket and finished with figures of 5-45 in his ten overs on a slow pitch well suited to his type of bowling.

Just as New Zealand’s innings started off in a similar manner to that of Queenstown, the West Indies too experienced some deja vu in their chase of 234 to avoid the whitewash. In the first nine overs they scored just seven runs and suffered the loss of the woefully out of form Chris Gayle who on 2 missed a straight one from Shane Bond and had his off-stump damaged accordingly.

The arrival at the crease of Runako Morton though brought a change in approach. In a series of considerably profitable overs he and Daren Ganga brought the run rate from below 1 to close to 3. Morton, who scored an unbeaten century in the fourth ODI in Napier, looked to be hitting the ball well before falling to a mixture of a good ball from the newly introduced James Franklin and poor or even non-existent footwork for 22.

Ganga continued to play well and set himself up to really start lifting the scoring rate, with good support from the promoted Dwayne Bravo, before holing out to Kyle Mills in the outfield off the bowling of supersub Jeetan Patel for 34 after a couple of near-misses by a diving Vincent in the last handful of balls beforehand. Next man in Dwayne Smith looked extremely promising, hitting a four and a six in his innings of 16 at better than a run a ball, but the reintroduction of Bond saw him deceived by the pace and a simple catch was taken by Vincent inside the circle. And so, after the chase was starting to gather momentum, the score had fallen to 98-4 in the 28th over.

But Bravo was looking very dangerous, striking the ball well and reaching 38 before a smart piece of wicketkeeping by McCullum found him well out of his crease to a ball from Astle. 125-5, and the target looking a long way away and supporters perhaps already starting to look ahead to the first test which starts on Thursday.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds had other ideas though, building a good partnership together and starting to hit boundaries with increasing regularity, including a four and a six off successive balls from Franklin by Hinds as the West Indies firstly edged back into contention, and then started to look temptedly at the position of favouritism to win the match.

Following that 12-run over from Franklin, 64 runs were required from 48 balls as the not terribly successful death bowler Mills was brought back into the attack to do the unpleasant job once again. From the second ball of the over Chanderpaul smashed a boundary through midwicket, and unpleasant memories of spells in this period of ODIs came flooding back for Mills. But then Chanderpaul played and missed, and then he hit a ball straight up in the air allowing Patel to get under it and return the favour done to him by Mills earlier in the innings. The score with the fall of the captain’s wicket was 175-6, and the crucial partnership coming together, the set Hinds and last fully recognised batsman Ramdin.

Ramdin began brightly with a well-played four off Astle to take the equation to 53 from 40. In the next over Hinds hit a big six to bring them within sight of victory, with 38 needed from the last five overs. When Astle conceded two fours in the next over, one a great shot through midwicket and the other a risky thick edge through the vacant slip cordon, it was 26 from 24 and looking very much in the West Indies’ favour.

Ramdin remained composed under the pressure and hit another four off Patel to bring it to a run a ball, 22 from 22. That became 17 from 18 as Shane Bond returned to the attack, the way the West Indians play against his bowling likely to decide the outcome of the match. A couple of fantastic shots saw 8 runs scored off the over, with just 9 needed from the last 12 and a rare victory so close.

Bond was given the task of bowling the last, three needed from it. Ramdin hit a two off the second ball to tie the game, but then next ball looked to end the match in spectacular fashion only to be caught at third man by Styris. Fittingly, the fact that the batsmen crossed allowed Hinds the opportunity to hit the winning run and himself finish on 40 not out.

The win may have been in a fairly meaningless match, but there are many positives for the West Indies to take from today’s win looking towards the tests, and the arrival of Brian Lara in the squad will do no end of good, and that along with the confidence gained from tonight’s win will make the team from the Caribbean no easybeats in the first test on the same ground, starting on Thursday.

New Zealand 233
Scott Styris 90, Stephen Fleming 32
Dwayne Smith 5-45, Ian Bradshaw 2-39

West Indies won by 3 wickets.

West Indies 234-7
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 41, Wavell Hinds 40 no
Shane Bond 3-32, Kyle Mills 1-37

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Dwayne Smith 5-45

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