West Indies v New Zealand, 4th ODI, Basseterre, St Kitts…
ODI series still up for grabs
For the first four games of the tour, West Indies were clobbering New Zealand as they haven’t clobbered any Test-playing nation in a long time. However, an all-too-familiar collapse by the hosts at St Kitts has left the ODI series in the balance and opened the door for New Zealand, who have Brendon McCullum back in the side.
West Indies’ initial success was partly due to the inexperience in the New Zealand side and partly due to Chris Gayle, who was bullying the bowlers almost single-handed. There is probably no harder job in limited overs cricket than to plan for Gayle, and New Zealand’s young captain Kane Williamson couldn’t have been faulted for his team’s successive failures. It looked like West Indies would wrap up the series in the third ODI, but then the Gayle failure arrived.
The way West Indies collapsed to a disappointing 88-run loss showed why, despite looking unstoppable at times, they remain a work in progress with a fragile batting-order. This was their chance to secure their first ODI series win against top-level opposition inmore than four years, and build on their performance during the drawn home series against Australia earlier this year. The target was modest, the bowling attack manageable, the ground small, and the track full of runs but their capitulation when facing a modest chase was all too familiar.
On the other hand, a struggling New Zealand team could have found the belief that they needed to compete in the series. However, to keep challenging West Indies, they will need a stronger effort from their batsmen, especially, after the loss of BJ Watling – their best batsman in the series.
Ahead of the fourth ODI, the home team remains favourite, although they need to show that they are more than a one-man team more often.
Watch out for…
Brendon McCullum was not part of the original New Zealand ODI squad, but rejoined the tour midway owing to a spate of injuries in the team. The loss of captain Ross Taylor due to a shoulder injury during the Twenty20 leg in Florida made New Zealand’s batting appear woefully short of experience and any firepower to counter West Indies’ heavy batting artillery. B McCullum’s addition is a further boost to the side after their unexpectedly big win in the third ODI.
Dwayne Smith made a comeback to the ODI squad after two years in England. In five matches since then, he has scored two half-centuries – a marked improvement over his three fifties from his previous 77 matches. Although, he played most of his career lower down the order, his batting was plagued by wrong choice of shots. In his new avatar as a No. 3, Smith’s fifties have been flanked by innings where he has again given it away too easily. Can he help his own confidence in the remaining two games? Or more importantly, will he be able to justify the responsibility of his new role?
New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling suffered a leg injury while batting during the third ODI in St. Kitts. Tom Latham kept the wickets in his place, but that role is likely to be taken up by a returning B McCullum, who is likely to replace Daniel Flynn at No. 3. That could open a batting spot for Dean Brownlie, who played in the first ODI. Bowling-wise, fast bowler Doug Bracewell and medium pacer Andrew Ellis will be available for selection after recovering from their respective injuries.
And West Indies may have harboured the thought of resting key players before the third ODI, but a heavy defeat means that the series is still up for grabs and therefore, the home side is likely to continue with their strongest XI. However, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin will miss the match due to his wedding. He has been replaced by Devon Thomas.
Teams – West Indies: (possible) 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Dwayne Smith, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Devon Thomas (wk), 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine
New Zealand: (possible) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 Tom Latham, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Kyle Mills