by Devashish Fuloria
West Indies’ search for their first win of the New Zealand tour ended at Eden Park in Auckland as the visitors edged past the home side in a low-scoring thriller to take lead in the five-match ODI series. Mitchell McClenaghan’s maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs led New Zealand’s fightback after they had been bowled out for 156, but Darren Sammy smashed an unbeaten 27-ball 43 to take West Indies over the line.
West Indies needed 61 when Sammy arrived at the crease at the fall of the sixth wicket and used the short boundaries to his advantage. Yet solidity was hard to come by as New Zealand kept chipping away with wickets. Sammy had added 25 runs with Denesh Ramdin, who scored just 2, when McClenaghan struck for the fifth time to remove Ramdin. Thirty-six runs and three wickets in hand; it was not a question of overs as West Indies were scoring at a quick rate.
Jason Holder, who has been impressive with the bat in his short career, thwarted New Zealand’s hopes in another obdurate stand of 26 runs with Sammy that brought West Indies to within 10 runs of the target. After his dismissal, Sammy didn’t let New Zealand get any further sniff, finishing the match with a six and a four in McClenaghan’s last over – the 28th of the innings.
Regular wickets were a feature of both teams’ batting performance. McClenaghan’s swing and good pace did the same damage at the top of the West Indies order, much like Ravi Rampaul and Holder reduced New Zealand to 32 for 4.
The difference was that McClenaghan didn’t receive similar support from his team-mates. In his first spell of six overs, he picked up four West Indies wickets; Powell left a straight delivery to be bowled, Charles was beaten by an inswinger, Darren Bravo drove one straight to cover, while Dwayne Bravo was trapped lbw by another perfect inswinger.
Lendl Simmons, who scored 34, and Narsingh Deonarine had some respite as McClenaghan took a break and the two stitched a critical 34-run stand. West Indies were close enough, even though the two were dismissed in quick succession, for Sammy to complete the chase in one strong leap.
Rampaul and Co were similarly efficient in the morning, but apart from Sammy, there were hardly any weaklinks in their attack. All the bowlers got the ball to jag either way, while Sunil Narine extracted fair amount of zip from the pacy drop-in pitch, the nature of which had been not clear before the match. It was one of the reasons why West Indies had opted to bowl and it worked in their favour.
New Zealand’s top four could manage only 13 runs among them as Rampaul and Holder bowled with control not seen in the West Indies bowlers during the Test series. Then Bravo brought himself on and ensured the bottom half of the New Zealand line-up had all their escape routes shut as he picked up four wickets.
Brendon McCullum put up a strong resistance, going past 5000 ODI runs during his 51, but he didn’t receive any support from the other batsmen as West Indies mounted pressure. On a ground with short boundaries, fours were hard to come by – the first came in the 11th over, bowled by Sammy, when McCullum pulled a four and followed it with a six next ball – and there was no breathing space for the batsmen. Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi hit aerial shots straight to the fielders, summing up the morning for New Zealand.
The slide had started at the start of the innings. Rampaul dismissed New Zealand’s comeback men Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill in his first two overs, but the big wicket of Ross Taylor came through a run-out. There was no looking back from there as Dwayne Bravo picked up four wickets to reduce New Zealand to 112 for 9.
Nathan McCullum delayed the end of innings till the 43rd over with an enterprising 47, adroitly farming the strike in a 44-run last-wicket stand during which Mitchell McClenaghan scored only three. Nathan McCullum was the last batsman to be dismissed and ensured New Zealand had just enough to put up a fight.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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