NAPIER: For the second time in about a month, West Indies pulled off a two-wicket win with Darren Sammy as the common denominator. But where the chase against India was powered by fluent fifties from Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons and Sammy, Thursday’s win in Auckland was the result of the two factors – Sammy’s cameo and New Zealand’s profligacy with the ball. New Zealand’s bowling, despite lacking in discipline, almost induced West Indies to hand over on a platter the advantage their pace bowlers had gained. When calm batting was all that was needed, a few too many West Indies batsmen fell to shots that should have been shelved, until Sammy’s last-gasp act took them to victory.
Both teams didn’t have too much knowledge of how the drop-in track would play out, but Jason Holder and Ravi Rampaul bowled tight opening spells that induced errors from an experienced New Zealand line-up. The advantage of dismissing the hosts’ top four within the first 12 overs is an immense confidence boost for a side that has struggled to contain the home batsmen through the Tests. West Indies, however, have suffered another setback on the batting front – they will play the rest of the series without Darren Bravo, who returned home on Saturday due to personal reasons.
For New Zealand, the opening partnership is a big concern – they have had just one fifty-plus opening stand in 2013, against Bangladesh in Fatullah, and only two stands worth more than 20 runs. Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder were both returning from long lay-offs and so it is likely there was some rustiness in the first ODI, but the lack of runs and constant changes at the top put additional pressure on the middle order.
Mitchell McClenaghan’s dream year continued as the left-arm pacer took his maiden five-for in ODI cricket in Auckland. While he has had his share of injuries, in 15 matches, McClenaghan already has 40 wickets and is a contender for breaking Ajantha Mendis’ record for fastest to 50 wickets in ODIs. Ravi Rampaul doesn’t have McClenaghan’s impressive record but whenever the bowler has done well, West Indies have invariably found themselves in a winning position. His first over to Guptill in Auckland, where he extracted swing and hit an enticing line immediately, was evidence of why West Indies rely so heavily on him in ODIs.
The failure of the top order in the first ODI – just 13 runs between Guptill, Ryder, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor – was a serious blow for New Zealand, but it is unlikely to change. It will be interesting to see if New Zealand make a choice to bring in Adam Milne to bolster the bowling, possibly at the expense of James Neesham.
West Indies have two possible replacements for Bravo – Kirk Edwards and Chadwick Walton. While Edwards hasn’t played an ODI since mid-2011, the last of Walton’s two one-dayers was in September 2009. Edwards’ recent form for West Indies A on the tour of India – he scored 159 runs in three List A games, including one century – may tilt the decision in his favour. The bowling line-up is likely to remain the same.
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