Gayle, Pollard shine in big win
Any worries that the first Twenty20 international in Lauderhill, Florida, would be a dreary contest because of a slow pitch were allayed by an exhibition of power hitting from the West Indian batsmen, much to the delight of the strong Caribbean contingent in the crowd.
Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle were the headliners, hitting missiles into the stands during a 108-run partnership plundered at almost 16 runs an over. Gayle began his innings watchfully but then accelerated to build a sound platform, which allowed Pollard to explode from the get-go and set a target that was comfortably out of New Zealand’s reach.
New Zealand were listless in the field and looked every bit a side that hadn’t played international cricket since March. Their lines and lengths were unimaginative and inconsistent; they conceded 13 runs in wides and bowled three no-balls; and they missed a stumping, a run-out and a catch. They lost Ronnie Hira to a dislocated finger, and Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor damaged a knee and a shoulder while fielding. They have less than 24 hours to nurse those injuries and make plans to counter Gayle and Pollard before round two.
Gayle played a calculated innings. He began carefully, leaving deliveries outside off and swaying away from bouncers, and was happy to let Dwayne Smith and Johnson Charles attack. However, whenever there was a lull in the scoring, Gayle would use his muscle. He could have been run out on 8 had a throw from mid-off struck the stumps at the non-striker’s end; it did not.
In the ninth over, Gayle hit left-arm spinner Hira powerfully towards long-off, where Oram dived but failed to prevent the boundary. Oram hurt his knee during the dive and had trouble later while bowling – struggling with
his line and footing – and running between the wickets. Gayle continued to attack the spinners, carting Nathan McCullum for consecutive straight boundaries before pulling Hira into the stands beyond midwicket. He then hammered the ball back at Hira, who dislocated a finger as he tried to intercept it. Hira went off the field immediately and played no further part in the game.
Pollard entered in 14th over with West Indies 101 for 2. He hit his first and third balls for six, long-distance blows over long-off and long-on off the spinner Kane Williamson. His sixth, off Rob Nicol, also disappeared over long-off. Pollard took charge of the partnership from there on, and Gayle cruised in his slipstream. In the 17th over, Pollard top-edged a pull off Oram towards fine leg, where Taylor circled under the swirling ball and fell hard on his shoulder as he dropped the catch. He would retire hurt at the end of the sixth over of the chase because of that injury.
The penultimate over was the most expensive of the innings. Pollard sent a length ball from Doug Bracewell over the straight boundary to go past 50 off his 24th ball, and then Gayle decided he wanted in on the action. Gayle powered one six flat over long-on, burning McCullum’s hands in the process, and sent two more far over deep midwicket to take 26 runs off the 19th over. Fifteen more came in the 20th, as West Indies amassed 209.
In New Zealand’s reply only Nicol with 32, Oram 27 and Tim Southee 23 made significant contributions, while Sunil Narine worked his magic to end with three wickets. The match however belonged to Gayle and Pollard.
Scores: West Indies 209 for 2 (Gayle 85*, Pollard 63*) beat New Zealand 153 (Nicol 32, Narine 3-34) by 56 runs.