Mar 07, 2010 Sports
By Sean Devers
West Indies beat Zimbabwe by four wickets yesterday at the Guyana National Stadium to end a 14-match winless streak and the smiles on the faces of the home fans were back with the 5-match ODI series now leveled one-all. There are three matches remaining and these will be played in St Vincent.
Skipper Chris Gayle led from the front with a responsible 88 from 111 balls with 7 fours and two sixes. He shared in a match winning 83-run fifth wicket stand with Man-of-the-Match Narsingh Deonarine who fashioned a high class unbeaten 65 as West Indies reached 208-6 off 47.5 overs replying to Zimbabwe’s modest 206 all out in 49.4 overs.
It was the first ODI victory for the Regional side since their eight-wicket win against India in July last year and it came after an embarrassing upset two-run loss in the opening ODI at the same venue on Thursday.
Left-arm spinner Nikita Miller captured 4-43 and got support from pacer Kemar Roach (3-37) as Zimbabwe were never allowed to break free after they again elected to bat on another sluggish track with plenty of turn for the spinners.
Elton Chigumbura stroked 6 fours from 67 balls in a solid 50 and got support from Brendon Taylor (47) and Tatenda Taibu (31) as Gayle (10-0-25-1) also contributed with the ball to finish as the most economical bowler for the hosts, just two places above the number 10th ranked Africans on the ODI rankings.
With a large and raucous crowd providing a kaleidoscope beyond the boundary, music blaring in the ‘Mound’ in between overs, flags being waved and horns being blown, the fans provided wonderful support for the regional side and produced a truly festive atmosphere.
The eventual victory they were rewarded with was not all smooth-sailing as the Zimbabwe spin attack ensured the West Indies batsmen fought hard for their runs. The shocking manner of Kieron Pollard’s demise with victory 20 runs away, reminded the close to 10,000 fans that it was the West Indies team in action.
In a shake-up to the team which lost to Zimbabwe for the first time in an ODI in the West Indies, Denesh Ramdin was sacked and Andre Fletcher was asked to wicket keep.
Darren Sammy and David Bernard were included after missing Thursday’s encounter and Dwayne Smith who now seems incapable of level-headedness at this level, was predictably left on the bench along with Ravi Rampaul and Ramdin.
Fletcher, surprisingly picked in the squad ahead of Darren Bravo, made little impact on the match and was comprehensively bowled by leg-spinner Graeme Creamer for a duck to now register six ducks and two single digit scores in his last nine Internationals.
Surely he and Smith should find themselves out of the squad for the remaining matches on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
In sweltering heat, Zimbabwe, maybe influenced by the fact that the team batting first in seven of the nine ODIs at Providence have won, opted to bat and were off to a terrible start.
Vusi Sibanda, who made 95 in the first match, was run out for 5 at 6-1 by excellent work from Roach off his own bowling.
The experienced Hamilton Masakadza hit 3 fours in 14 before he was taken at third man off Roach to leave the visitors, hunting a first ever third consecutive win against the West Indies at any level since the West Indies ‘A’ first toured Zimbabwe in 1981. They were in trouble at 34-2.
Taylor, who hit 4 fours from 66 balls in his 47 and ‘little’ wicket keeper Taibu (31from 46 balls with 3 fours) repaired the early damage by taking the score to 93 before Gayle, who described his team’s first-match performance as ‘rubbish’, trapped Taylor LBW in the 21st over.
Stuart Matsikenyeri (3) tamely punched Miller to Gayle at short extra cover to make it 100-4 and Taibu top-edged a sweep off Miller to short fine-leg seven runs later as Zimbabwe slumped to 107-5.
With acres of Sugar Cane lands just beyond the eastern boundary and under an almost cloudless sky, Greg Lamb (23) and Chigumbura put together 73 before they were sent packing in the space of three runs inside the batting power-play overs as Miller and Roach struck in quick succession.
A run-a-ball 17 from Creamer was ended at 206-8 when he was bowled by Miller; Ray Price was bowled for a duck by Roach and Chris Mpofu was run out as the last three wickets tumbled for no run. While Barath struggled to get the ball away and was leg before to left-arm spinner Price for 7 for 18 balls, Gayle tore into the all-spin Zimbabwe new ball attack and by lunch the hosts were 45-1 with the Skipper on 37 and Bernard, strangely asked to bat at number three, on one.
Bernard (1) was stumped off a leg-side wide off Price just after Lunch and the West Indies, now with nine defeats and 28 ODI wins against Zimbabwe, were 47-2.
Thursday’s top-scorer Shivnarine Chanderpaul had difficulty getting the ball away as the ball gripped and spun prodigiously and was soon LBW to Lamb for 10 from 43 balls to leave the score on 82-3 in 23 overs. Fletcher (0) never suggested permanence and was clean bowled at 85-4 and fans with heart problems must have felt that it was a health risk to watch or listen the progress of this West Indies team, especially since they were without injured batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo.
Skipper Prosper Utseya opted to use the pace of Mpofu even as the spinners continued to beat the bat and torment batsmen. Gayle took charge with 15 off the 41st over from the fast bowler. A couple of scorching fours through cover and later a spanking four off Price over cover dramatically reduced the required run rate.
Home boy Deonarine’s first boundary came off his 48th delivery; an effortless straight six off Creamer. It was followed by a vicious slog-sweep for another boundary two balls later and the fans were jumping in the stands.
When the elegant Deonarine magnificently smashed a half-volley from Mpofu like a bullet to the cover boundary, the crowd went wild and Zimbabwe’s decision to use pace was proving counter-productive.
The strike-rate of Gayle, with two ODI tons against Zimbabwe, ebbed and flowed as he adjusted to the varying situations and along with Deonarine, one of the best in the business of playing spin bowling in the West Indies, took their team closer to victory with intelligent batting.
When 12 short of becoming the highest West Indies ODI centurion (he shares 19 tons with Brian Lara), a tired looking Gayle experienced a rare lapse in concentration and missed a big swing at Creamer and was bowled. At 168-5, another improbable West Indies collapse when in sight of victory was not out of the question.
Pollard, publicly scolded by Gayle for his irresponsible shot selection in the previous match, seemed not to have learned anything. After hitting a huge six to get off the mark, the world highest paid IPL cricketer despite his ordinary limited overs record again exposed what is now becoming a epidemic of mental ineptitude among present-day West Indian players.
With long-on right back on the boundary and part-time spinner Taylor in his only over of the match, Pollard (7) hit the ball straight to the fielder and the game was on a knife’s edge.
Pollard’s unbelievable shot selection with five overs left and 20 runs required, left many speechless although it is assumed that Gayle and new Coach Otis Gibson had plenty to say to the 22-year-old Trinidadian ‘Super Star’ with an ODI average of 17.31 and a 20/20 average of 13.
Deonarine kept his head and along with Sammy, who stroked Creamer to the long-off boundary to seal the win, ensured the West Indies leave today for St Vincent with the opportunity of winning the series 4-1.
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