Top Order Sets Up Easy Win

Excellent top order batting by Jamie How, Stephen Fleming and particularly Nathan Astle set up New Zealand’s 288 before Daniel Vettori, Jeetan Patel and Michael Mason did the business with the ball to give New Zealand a comfortable 81-run victory over the West Indies in the first ODI at Wellington tonight. Vettori was as economical as ever, Mason was accurate and miserly, and Patel produced a stunning delivery and continued to impress everyone as New Zealand dominated throughout the match despite some occasional brilliance from the visitors.

Somewhat surprisingly in the team in the place of Lou Vincent, Jamie How justified his selection with an impressive 66 in an opening partnership with Nathan Astle worth 136 after Stephen Fleming had won the toss and chosen to bat. How put doubts about his ability to score quickly to rest, hitting nine fours in his 91-ball knock, his second half-century in 5 matches in his short career to date. He and Astle took to the largely inexperienced West Indies pace attack, and it took the spin of all-rounder Chris Gayle to break the partnership, clean bowling How in the 26th over. Wickets often bring a decline in the run-rate, but not this time as Stephen Fleming came out in a very attacking frame of mind. From just 48 balls he scored 55, hitting six fours and a six as he and the equally aggressive Astle took the score through to 224 and seemingly heading towards 300 before Fleming fell, caught by his captaincy opponent Shivnarine Chanderpaul off the bowling of Dwayne Smith. Astle looked to be heading for a century, but fell ten runs short, caught by Ian Bradshaw at mid-wicket, Smith’s second wicket in two overs, and second wicket of a settled batsman with more than 50 to his name at that.

The wicket was a crucial turning point in the innings, what looked like a score in excess of 300 suddenly became a very different situation altogether. Brendon McCullum was promoted to number five to provide some impetus in the last few overs. However he managed just two before he was out to a very good delivery, caught behind off supersub Rawl Lewis who had come in for Jerome Taylor after five expensive overs from the paceman. With that a collapse began. Tight bowling built pressure and the batsmen, apart from Scott Styris who batted well for his 36, were unable to handle it. A mixture of good bowling and fielding and poor batting and running between the wickets always leads to the fall of several wickets, and today the victims were Peter Fulton, James Franklin, Hamish Marshall and Daniel Vettori, for scores of 7, 2, 7 and 0 respectively. 224-1 had suddenly become 259-6, and it is only thanks to the 36 runs scored in 34 balls by Styris that New Zealand limped through to 288-9, still very much a defendable score but extremely disappointing after the start New Zealand’s top three had given them.

The score looked all the more defendable when Gayle fell for six, caught by Vettori off the bowling of Shane Bond, leaving the West Indies with the task of getting the challenging total without the help of one of their most powerful and best batsmen. When Runako Morton was clean bowled by Franklin first ball, it was 14-2 and looking rather difficult for the visitors to replicate New Zealand’s big and almost successful chase against Australia on this ground in December.

A much needed partnership was formed between Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan, a partnership worth 86. Ganga looked uncomfortable against the pace of Bond early on, and Sarwan was unsettled by some attacking fielding by Hamish Marshall. Marshall had earlier dropped a catch that he would normally have been expected to take, so had a point to prove and certainly did so. However, the batsmen gradually gained momentum, playing some excellent shots and moving the run rate slowly back up towards where it needed to be.

But soon after reaching a good half-century Ganga undid all of the good work he had done in getting to that point with a soft dismissal, prodding a ball from Styris to Astle at short cover. Chanderpaul looked promising before being the victim of an unbelievable ball from supersub Jeetan Patel. The ball pitched just outside off stump and spun back, going between Chanderpaul’s legs to hit middle stump.

Sarwan continued his patient anchoring innings, and after Wavell Hinds had fallen to Vettori for just three he was joined at the crease by Dwayne Smith, who started with a big six off Patel. But Sarwan, on 56, was out in a bizarre and rather unlucky manner. A ball from Vettori spun past the bat, seemingly narrowly missing the edge while the bat hit the pad, and went off the shoulder of wicketkeeper McCullum up in the air to backward point, where it was well caught by substitute fielder Lou Vincent diving forward to take an excellent catch.

With the score at 153-6 and the target looking increasingly distant, Smith decided he had nothing to lose. In a repetitive Patel over, he hit a powerful slog sweep off the first ball for six, defended a good yorker for the second ball, hit the third for another six, and defended another yorker for the fourth.

Smith was looking increasingly dangerous, but excellent fielding restricted his scoring. His partner Dinesh Ramdin became frustrated with the lack of boundaries and went for a big hit off Michael Mason, but was caught in the outfield by Styris. Mason had been very economical and had been unlucky when Marshall put a catch down off his bowling, so it was a well-deserved wicket.

At the end of 40 overs, 103 were needed from the last 60, an extremely big ask made even bigger when Lewis was run out for 5, the score reduced to 191-8. And then the unlikely became the impossible when the dangerous Smith was out to Mason, hitting powerfully down the ground but straight to Patel, out for 38 and just the two tailenders Ian Bradshaw and Fidel Edwards standing between New Zealand and victory. Of course, Bradshaw made 34 not out in the wonderful Champions Trophy win against England in the final, but tonight more was required in less time.

Bradshaw and Edwards batted on for a few more overs with no serious attempt at the score before Patel took the last wicket, Franklin taking a comfortable catch to take the wicket of Edwards.

New Zealand 288-9
Nathan Astle 90, Jamie How 66
Chris Gayle 2-42, Dwayne Smith 2-50

New Zealand won by 81 runs.

West Indies 207
Ramnaresh Sarwan 56, Daren Ganga 54
Daniel Vettori 2-29, Michael Mason 2-36

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Nathan Astle – 90 (107)

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