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October 1, 2012
Sunil Narine had a wonderful night. He tied up New Zealand late in the innings, just as he had in a one-day series in the Caribbean a few months earlier, and along with his fellow spinner, Samuel Badree, bowled eight overs for 38 runs to enable West Indies - with a little help from a Super Over - to defend 139.
Narine's wickets told of his distinctive talent; his figures of 3 for 20 reflecting his best display of the tournament. Two left-hand batsmen, James Franklin and Jacob Oram, fell to carrom balls: Franklin poked at one to be caught at slip, Oram was fooled by another that came back to trap him lbw. There was a third wicket, too, as Narine held his nerve in the penultimate over to have Nathan McCullum caught on the slog sweep.
His captain, Darren Sammy, was delighted with his young spinner. "We played New Zealand at home and the last three games we won when it went down to the wire and Narine played a very important part in the latter overs. That's why I used him in that manner - overs 17 and 19 - and he got two wickets in that period for very few runs. That was a key moment for us. It was a much better bowling display for us."
All in all it was a good night then, duly recognised with the Man-of-the-Match award, but Narine should also remember one careless moment that almost cost West Indies the match. His inexplicable fumble of a trundler at short fine leg in the final over of New Zealand's innings not only gifted an extra run but it kept Ross Taylor on strike.
New Zealand needed 14, 13 to tie, off Marlon Samuels' final over and when Narine misfielded, the balance shifted. Neither West Indies spinner fielded well and such largesse cannot easily be survived.
Samuels had been charged with bowling that final over after a lengthy consultation involving five West Indies players. He was chosen over Andre Russell, who has not had a good tournament, but Sammy could have bowled Chris Gayle or Kieron Pollard, too. Samuels was to bowl in the Super Over, too, an even greater surprise considering that the entire attack was available. He seems to bowl final overs or not at all, a curious speciality act.
Super Overs are surely designed for West Indies batsmen. Gayle struck a six off the first ball, a wide half-volley that was also a no-ball; Samuels finished it off with another six with one ball unused. Tim Southee's intentions were sound - not only to bowl yorkers but, to Gayle at least, to bowl them wide of off-stump to escape his preferred hitting arc, but his execution was lacking. It can't be easy to bowl yorkers in a Super Over with Gayle, muscular and threatening, stood at the other end.
Gayle had played with formidable insouciance, as is his style, in the match proper, in making 31 from 14 balls, but at Super Over time, even he looked driven, almost tense, as he jogged up the dressing room steps to pad up. With his piratical bandana, he resembles Captain Jack's more muscular brother.
"Eighteen runs with Chris batting, it is always possible," Sammy said. "We back Chris to clear the boundary. Six runs off a no ball was just a perfect start. When games get so tight the true West Indies celebrations come out. We can really dance. We have no difficulty doing that."
West Indies' victory had seemed unlikely when they made only 139, which Sammy conceded was well below the 160 he had regarded as a likely ambition. Their balance again seemed awry. They again omitted three batsmen- Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo - and this time experimented with Russell at No 3. It was a bit late in the day for experiments and it did not come off, as he picked out short fine leg when he had made only 6.
Not for the first time, the belief that if you silence Gayle you silence West Indies was disturbingly close to the truth. Gayle made 30 from 13 balls before he pushed cautiously at one that left him from Tim Southee and was caught at the wicket.
Southee had silenced him once, but he was unable to silence him a second time. It was easy to sympathise.
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