Carlos Brathwaite going berserk and Ian Bishop on commentary. Where have we seen that before? Brathwaite this time almost pulled yet another bunny out of the bag, but New Zealand managed to hang on and escape with a 5-run win. With 33 to get off the final three overs, Matt Henry would have found out how it was to be in Ben Stokes’ shoes in the 2016 World T20 final, but luckily for him, he had left eight more runs to defend off the final two overs.
West Indies once again managed to falter from an excellent position, thanks to yet another Kane Williamson masterclass. He was well aided by Ross Taylor too as West Indies threw away yet another match – first with the ball – and then with the bat. They now find themselves more or less out of contention for berth in the top 4. As far as the Kiwis are concerned, they are yet to be defeated in the tournament and they find themselves on top of the World Cup points table in the business end of the group stage.
Having picked up the most wickets (10) in the first Powerplay before this match, there was little surprise that West Indies managed to strike early once again. However, this time, the probably surprised themselves when Sheldon Cottrell trapped Martin Guptill in front off the first delivery and followed that up by cleaning up Colin Munro for a golden duck as well. Both wickets were picked up with full deliveries, attacking the stumps. With a bit of swing, Cottrell was certainly making the ball talk, much to the disarray of the Kiwi batsmen.
Two of their best players Kane Williamson – fresh from a match-winning century in the previous game – and Ross Taylor, who has been in good form this tournament took it upon themselves to resurrect the innings. West Indies restricted New Zealand to 30 for 2 in the first 10 overs, which is the lowest score in the first Powerplay in this World Cup (in completed matches).
New Zealand certainly had their work cut out as the Windies bowlers were giving very little away. Williamson and Taylor were not scoring at more than 70 at the end of 20 overs, but more importantly, they had not lost further wickets. Both batsmen brought up their fifties in the same over. While Williamson’s took 75 deliveries, Taylor took 68 balls to reach his milestone. They brought up their 100-run stand two deliveries later. With both batsmen looking more comfortable with each passing ball, it was time for West Indies to break this partnership, which could potentially take the game away from them.
With the score reading 144 at the end of the 30th overs, eight wickets remaining and two set batsmen at the crease, New Zealand had set a great platform for themselves to reach 300 or even more. To add to West Indies’ woes, Evin Lewis pulled his right hamstring and had to leave the field.
They were handed a relief when Taylor found the man at mid-off looking to go over him to give Chris Gayle his first ODI wicket 15 months. However, the focus then shifted to Williamson, who registered back-to-back ODI centuries – for the first time in his career.
With a little overs 12 overs to go, he had to change gears, if he was to take the Kiwis to a formidable total. New Zealand perhaps missed a trick by not sending James Neesham or even Colin de Grandhomme ahead of Tom Latham at No. 5. That could have given the team the much needed momentum after the brilliant Williamson-Taylor stand.
Williamson paced his innings beautifully and with 21 balls to spare, he walked back to the pavilion for 148 off 154 – his highest ODI score – after coming into bat in the second ball of the match. New Zealand could not get past 300, but will take 291 for 8 after finding themselves two-down in the very first over.
Like New Zealand, West Indies too lost a couple of wickets in the first Powerplay, but were much better placed at 59 for 2. Since Lewis was not fit to open, it was Shai Hope, who had an average of more than 107 as an opener before this match, who had to come out in place of the southpaw. He and Nicholas Pooran were dismissed for one and West Indies needed a Williamson-Taylor-like partnership. They started off extremely well, having brought up their 50-run stand off just 28 deliveries.
Once Hetmyer was bowled for 54 off 45, after putting up 122 runs for the third wicket, skipper Jason Holder too was dismissed for a golden duck, it opened the floodgates. Gayle too was dismissed in pursuit of a big one, perishing for 83-ball 87 and Windies from 142 for 2 went to 152 for 5 in a matter of two overs. It seemed like just a matter of time when Ashley Nurse and Lewis managed just a single between them.
Carlos Brathwaite had to play a Eden Gardens-esque innings or even a much bigger effort for his side to get anywhere close to New Zealand’s total. His 47-run eighth wicket stand with Kemar Roach gave them a glimmer of hope, but there were 81 more required from 71 deliveries – and with just two wickets in hand – it was going to be an uphill task, considering that the likes of Boult and Lockie Ferguson had overs left up their sleeve.
It was Ferguson who eventually broke Sheldon Cottrell’s resistance, who contributed 15 off 26 in a 34-run ninth wicket stand. Windies still needed 47 off 30. It was all up to Brathwaite now. Meanwhile, Boult’s figures of 4 for 30 was as good as any spell we have seen in the World Cup so far. It had pace, variations and more importantly, bowled the right lines and lengths to trouble the West Indies batsmen.
Brathwaite went on to score his century of 80 balls, but when he needed to take a single and retain strike for the final over, he went for the glory shot and holed out at the long-on fence, bringing him on his knees and the rest of the West Indies team in the dressing room in disbelief. It was a case of so close, yet so far for the West Indies, who had scored 122 runs for their final three wickets.