Catches win a vital match for West Indians
Catches win matches, the old adage says. And, insofar as it is ever possible to prove that theory, then West Indies' seventy-seven run victory (under the Duckworth/Lewis method) over Zimbabwe went a long way toward doing so at the Adelaide Oval tonight.
Chasing a difficult target of 253 from a maximum forty-seven overs, Zimbabwe was mounting a significant attack upon it when spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo, sideways and hard to his left, thrust out an outstretched hand to haul in a breathtaking catch and remove star batsman Andy Flower (50) in the midst of the evening session.
And later, captain Jimmy Adams produced another remarkable catch, even to the point of nearly knocking himself out as he crashed to the ground with the ball, running back from mid wicket to intercept a lofted stroke played toward mid on by Dirk Viljoen (7).
They were two wonderful efforts that underlined a crucial difference in the Carlton Series encounter between the sides today.
Together with his brother Grant (41), Flower had conceived a steadying partnership of ninety for the fourth wicket that had looked to be easing Zimbabwe back into the match. Following the early departures of Guy Whittall (17), Alistair Campbell (20) and Stuart Carlisle (4) to disappointing strokes, the pair serially cut, nudged and drove a steady attack to distraction. At least, that was, until Nagamootoo's intervention.
Coming as it did in the thirty-fifth over and with the Zimbabweans at the respectable scoreline of 3/137, the leg spinner's freakish caught and bowled certainly loomed large among the defining points of the match. It was the first of his four wickets and triggered a dramatic decline during which seven tumbled in total for the addition of a paltry thirty-eight runs. Accordingly, it might also carry crucial implications for the tight battle for second place behind Australia that continues in this three-cornered series.
But no mention of Nagamootoo's effort would be complete without acknowledgment of Adams' endeavours nor of three bad misses, by contrast, from the Zimbabweans earlier in the day.
Continuing their dismal run in the field in this series - a run which stands in stark contrast to the reputation that they possess for being a good fielding team - the Zimbabweans committed the sin of granting two lives to Brian Lara (70) and another to Marlon Samuels (68) that were critical in the final analysis.
Diving forward at mid wicket, Gavin Rennie failed to clutch a mistimed pull when the brilliant left hander's score was on ten. Then, with Lara at twenty-two, slip fieldsman Campbell seemed to barely even lay so much as a fingernail on a thick outside edged shot as he pressed forward at leg spinner Brian Murphy. Later - with Samuels at forty-seven, to be precise - another catch went down when Carlisle misjudged the flight of a lofted on drive at Viljoen, charging forward from his position on the rope to try and intercept the stroke but somehow finding himself too far in from the boundary and having to desperately throw out an outstretched right hand.
For a side whose bowlers looked increasingly unthreatening on a benign pitch, luxuries such as dropped catches did not need to be frittered away so recklessly.
With the temperature hovering in the high thirties on the Celsius scale, Lara and Samuels slowly wore down an attack that struggled to produce a great deal in the way of menacing deliveries. Both started a touch hesitantly - Lara played well away from his body initially and Samuels was somewhat uncertain outside the line of off stump - but gradually assumed control. At the venue where he scored a sparkling 182 in a Test match earlier in the summer, Lara was arguably the more impressive of the two batsmen, sprinkling attacking strokes all around the ground. But Samuels also played well, especially forward of the wicket on the off side.
In a whirlwind flurry before a cool change and driving rain replaced the scorching heat, Ricardo Powell (33) and Nagamootoo (22*) then continued the West Indian charge. The break in the weather curtailed the innings at the forty-seven over mark but not before the score had reached a more than respectable 6/235. Under Duckworth/Lewis calculations, this total was revised upward to leave their opponents requiring an extra eighteen runs off the same number of overs for victory.
In the end, though, far greater generosity on the part of officials and the West Indian fieldsmen would have been required for the target to be successfully pursued.