New Zealand knock off West Indies to win one-day series

by Don Cameron
Stabroek News
January 7, 2000

The history books will show that New Zealand defeated West Indies with four wickets and 12 overs to spare in a one-day international at McLean Park in Napier yesterday, thus tipping West Indies deeper into the slough of despond, and giving New Zealand the one-day rubber 3-0 with two matches to play.

The statistics will also show this is the first time New Zealand have gained three consecutive wins in a one-day rubber since against Sri Lanka in 1990-91. But the records will not even hint at the zany nature of a type of cricket that sometimes seems designed by the Marx Brothers, with as script by Monty Python.

For a start West Indies, in a make-or-break situation, made a huge selection gamble by picking only two fast bowlers, Reon King and Mervyn Dillon. They cast aside Courtney Walsh and Franklyn Rose, promoting the leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine and picking Wavell Hinds, the batsman, who had not batted for a month.

Brian Lara and his experts read the pitch very well, for the McLean Park tradition is that the pitch has some pace and bounce to encourage the batsmen at the start, but grows slower with a lower bounce in the evening.

Lara may have picked the ideal bat-first-bowl-second side, and he then carried on the magic by winning the toss and batting first.

This pitch usually offers 240-260 runs to a side of reasonable batting skill, and that would have been a sturdy enough foundation for Lara who could use his two or three slow bowlers under favourable pitch conditions. So much for brave hopes. This time Sherwin Campbell lasted twice as long as at Taupo on Tuesday -- he watched a wide from Chris Cairns go down the leg-side, and then got a touch to a nasty lifter which Adam Parore caught. Five runs later Dion Nash made one jump at Jimmy Adams, and the fine inside edge went to Parore. With the first ball of the seventh over Cairns had Ridley Jacobs lbw, and six overs later hit Shivnarine Chanderpaul's open off stump.

So after 13 overs West Indies were on the point of disintegration at 33 for four wickets.

Then, in contrast to Cairns' and Nash's aggression, along came Chris Harris with his gentle little wobblers, who got a little turn from the leg and made the bounce from the pitch even slower.

Ricardo Powell committed suicide by trying to drive Harris over the top, and Lara (after abrisk 30) was so deceived by Harris' dawdling flight that an intended flick to the leg side only sent back a gentle return catch to Harris on the off-side of the pitch.

This disaster came at 70 for six, and when Hinds, the last of the batsmen, had a swing across Harris' line and skied a catch to the bowler West Indies were 97 for seven, 19 overs to go, and everyone made plans for an early finish.

But no-one told Nehemiah Perry, the chunky off-spinner, whose last four major innings had brought 3, 0, 2 and 0, and he soon persuaded Dillon that they should stick together and get some runs, however slowly and patiently. New Zealand kept on attacking for a while, and then eased off the tight-set fields lest Perry and Dillon hit some boundaries. It was a curious tactical decision by the New Zealanders, but it reflected very well on the cool and composed Perry.

So he and Dillon scraped together 48 runs for the eighth wicket before Dillon lost patience, tried to hit Nathan Astle out of the park, and instead skied a catch for Parore. Ramnarine and King helped Perry to carry the rearguard action to the last over, leaving Perry high and dry on 52 (93 minutes, 90 balls two fours) and he left the ground like a hero.

The first 31 overs had brought West Indies 97 for seven wickets. The last 19 produced 62 runs for the last three wickets -- a classic display of dogged and determined one-day survival.

New Zealand thoughts of a comfortable win disappeared when Dillon had Craig Spearman caught for nought, and then everyone waited for Stephen Fleming's innings to finish. On 2, he slashed a high catch which Campbell could not pull down at second slip. Two runs later another Fleming edge seemed to fly into Powell's hands at first slip, and the ball jumped out again.

Two other hopeful dabs at the ball by Fleming just failed to carry as catches to the close-in West Indies field. Then came two or three lucky edges, one of which skidded away to the fence. In the meantime Astle, his bat all middle, was banging fours all over the place, so even though Fleming was using up a season's good luck in one innings, the New Zealand total galloped along.

In fact, Fleming batted very tidily after that jittery first hour, and even when Astle was out in the 21st over for 50 (eight fours, as many as West Indies got in their whole innings) the total was 106 for two, and New Zealand might have expected a comfortable stroll to victory.

Instead Lara brought in attacking fields, he let King and then Dillon loose again, and New Zealand began to crumble. Roger Twose, promoted to No 4, was out first ball, caught off a lifter from King by Adams, wearing a helmet at short leg very much in test-match fielding mode.

Two overs later Cairns, after thumping one four, was lbw to King, one of the fruitier decisions of the summer so far as the ball was missing leg stump. Hinds, a part-time medium-pacer, persuaded Craig McMillan into a return catch and King, in his last desperate over, had Harris caught close-in by the helmeted Adams. This was another bad decision for the ball was plainly a one-day no-ball, but by this time everyone was rushing about rather madly.

Perhaps the only calm person was Fleming, still leading New Zealand quietly along, and he had the final say when he was 66 not out when the win was achieved.

In one of his most bizarre innings Fleming faced 100 balls and hit only five fours.

The wags round the ground were calling him "Felix the Cat" on the basis that he had nine lives, and had used up eight of them.

In hindsight West Indies might have snatched a brilliant against-the-odds win had they accepted any of those early Fleming chances.

But this tour has turned into a might-have-been exercise for Lara and his men, and now they must face the two remaining one-dayers searching only for their pride. Perry and King and Dillon showed West Indies what pride was about yesterday -- and it is now time the senior West Indies batsmen absorbed the same simple lessons.

Windies under attack from media

It might be no big thing, but the struggling West Indian cricketers could take home one distinction next week -- the first side to win an international match in Wellington's sparkling new stadium, site of the fourth one-day international tomorrow.

The West Indians certainly need a boost, for their low-scoring loss to New Zealand at Napier yesterday dropped them to an 0-3 loss in the five-match series followed by sharp criticism from their coach Viv Richards, and scorn from a local newspaper critic.

Richards said it was time the West Indians realised they were not playing the easy cricket of their schooldays, but were in the tough, hard world of international cricket.

"It is about time some of the players stopped getting out playing schoolboy strokes."

The New Zealand Herald's cricket writer Richard Boock began his report of the New Zealanders' win at Napier -- "Ho Hum. Another win over the West Indies, another series victory for New Zealand. Such is life these days."

Boock said West Indies had taken a stage further that bitter newspaper comment about England cricket a few years ago.

"Someone suggested that the England team of the 90's had only three problems -- they could not bat, they could not bowl and they could not field," wrote Boock.

"The West Indians seem to have all these problems, and another -- they cannot select either.

"They got it (team selection) wrong for the first test, they mucked it up even more for the second and -- after heading into the first two one-dayers with an unhealthy pre-occupation with pace -- ironically carried 30 overs of spin last night on a pitch favouring the quicks."

Neither camp was predicting their team selections for tomorrow, but New Zealand are likely to stay with the safety-first bowling of Scott Styris who replaced the quickish left-armer Shayne O'Connor at Napier.

This will be the first international match played at the new Wellington stadium named after the sponsoring bank WestpacTrust, The 32,000-seat stadium cost $NZ121 million and will be the home of one-day cricket -- and perhaps test matches -- in Wellington, as well as being the major football venue.

Purpose-built for cricket, the stadium has a fullsize field and a local Shell Cup game there earlier this week suggested a pitch of useful batting quality, but with a heavily-grassed outfield which may be a little sluggish.

The major comment about the new ground so far is a public outcry which has the ground controllers banning spectators from bringing in food and drink, for the on-field caterers have been guaranteed a full monopoly.

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