January 8, 2014
A few days ago, West Indies barely had enough fit players to field an XI but, almost out of nowhere, they produced an outstandingly powerful display to square the one-day series 2-2. Their victory by the overwhelming margin of 203 runs – New Zealand’s second heaviest ODI defeat – was based around hundreds from Kirk Edwards and Dwayne Bravo who formed a 211-run stand for the fourth wicket in West Indies’ highest ever one-day international total.
For Edwards it was his maiden ODI hundred while Bravo’s was just his second in a 154-match career where his runs return have been far below what they should have been for his talent. The overall total of 363 for 4 surpassed a mark from back in 1987 when West Indies scored 360 against Sri Lanka. Although West Indies had taken the opening match in Auckland, there would have been long odds on this team producing such a performance after two insipid displays in Queenstown and Nelson.
They could hardly have wished for better conditions to try and overturn their poor batting form; a flat pitch, small ground and a fast outfield. Brendon McCullum was happy to bowl first, backing his team in a chase, but the final carnage was probably 80 runs more than he would have wanted. This was one of those occasions when mishits reached the boundary and chip shots clear them, but that is to take nothing away from the performances of Edwards and Bravo, who both produced textbook one-day innings consisting of a period of rebuilding, then increasingly fierce strokeplay as the innings progressed. The fact they did not join forces until the 25th over highlighted how dominant they were.
Edwards had not previously passed fifty (which he reached with a flick for six over midwicket) in the first ten matches of his career, but was able to start his innings from a rare position of strength after Kieran Powell, who raced to 73 off 44 balls, had dominated an opening stand of 95 in 12 overs. His hundred came from 90 deliveries with an inside edge past the stumps – the second fifty requiring 28 balls as he cut loose in excellent batting conditions. He favoured the leg side, where he hit two of his four sixes, but also drove strongly through the covers as McCullum struggled to stem the flow.
Bravo had joined Edwards with the innings at a tipping point on 143 for 3 after New Zealand had hauled back the early charge but after a few overs of consolidation – aware that West Indies did not have a huge amount of batting to follow – opened his boundary account with a six over long-off and produced the stylish strokeplay that has been so often lacking during his international career.
This, though, has been a good series for him with the bat and he moved to his hundred from 79 deliveries (his second fifty taking just 25 deliveries) in the penultimate over of the innings which was followed by his third six, straight towards the sightscreen off Kane Williamson.
The last 10 overs – six of which cost double figures for the bowlers, including 21 off the 44th bowled by Corey Anderson – produced some severe damage as West Indies scored 117 runs; the five-over block from 40-45 brought 75 runs. Although it was a tough ground to defend on, New Zealand’s bowlers did not help themselves by often delivering a hittable length.
Powell, the tall left-hander, set the tone in the opening over when he collected consecutive boundaries off Tim Southee and in the paceman’s next over another pull carried for six. His innings kicked into a higher gear during the sixth over of the innings, from Mitchell McClenaghan, which cost 19 runs including another six: this time it was caught, one-handed, by a supporter in the crowd which earned the lucky man a prize of NZ$100,000.
Powell’s fifty came off 28 balls and he was eyeing a rapid hundred when he went to sweep McCullum and was taken on the boot. Replays showed it would have missed leg stump but Powell declined to use the review available. In the 14 overs following Powell’s wicket, there were only three boundaries, the pressure helping to bring about Lendl Simmons’ wicket when he drove to point, but it was the only period where New Zealand were not chasing the game.
Given what the home side achieved in Queenstown – albeit in a reduced game – they could not immediately be ruled out of the chase, but hunting down such a vast total is a very different challenge when compared to setting one. It needed a hundred from one of the top four, but instead they were all dismissed by the 11th over.
Martin Guptill was beaten by a nip-backer from Bravo, Jesse Ryder top-edged behind square, Williamson walked across his stumps to the impressive Jason Holder and Ross Taylor edged a delivery that turned from Nikita Miller. When Brendon McCullum skied into the deep, the challenge was already verging on the impossible and the sight of him losing his bat trying to slog Miller was apt given he will see this as a series victory that his team let slip from their grasp.
The final mention, though, should go to West Indies. The last two wickets came courtesy of a superb running catch from Bravo and a direct hit by Holder. They were as brilliant today as they had been woeful earlier in the series. It was only a shared series, but given their recent woes it probably felt like a lot more.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo