New Zealand surge to another big win
New Zealand buried West Indies under a huge total at McLean Park to record their fourth successive victory in the five-match series. Powered by Lou Vincent's confidence-coated century and fifties from Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming New Zealand ran up the first 300-plus score of the series, and their opening bowlers then pegged back the West Indians. Runako Morton merely delayed the inevitable with his maiden international hundred.
New Zealand made Shivnarine Chanderpaul rue his decision to insert them under clear skies with three dominant innings from their top order. Fleming and Vincent paved the way with a 106-run stand, and Vincent then Astle added 156 for the second wicket that would prove the fulcrum of New Zealand's total. After a sedate start - New Zealand were 36 for no loss after ten - Fleming exploded to life in a ten-ball spell that moved him from 10 off 25 to his half-century. Ian Bradshaw was hit for four consecutive boundaries in the tenth over, while Deighton Butler's first over allowed Fleming to carve a hat-trick of sixes over the point boundary as 58 came from the first Powerplay.
Vincent had been content to tick along at the other end, but with the West Indies fielding falling to pieces and the bowling wilting under Fleming's onslaught, he too joined the fun and crunched a series of drives either side of the pitch. Orthodox and constructive, this was an important innings from Vincent, a player who had made quick 30s and 40s but had often failed to sustain his early momentum. Partnered by Astle, he showed increased maturity in the way he ran between the wickets and rotated the strike. He found the boundary with ease repeatedly and neither batsman had much to worry about on a pitch which was true in pace and bounce. Bringing up his second one-day hundred in the 44th over with a drive towards mid-off, Vincent raised his bat and afforded himself the tiniest of smiles.
Attempting to mould himself into a more solid batsman, he could have had no better instructor than the man at the other end. Astle has taken a liking to this bowling attack all series, and today it was back to business. He cut, drove and pulled with ease as West Indies repeatedly offered him width and served up long-hops. Brutal against anything short, Astle feasted on the bowling - a golf-like tee off the pads sent the ball way over the midwicket fence as New Zealand switched into maximum slog mode in the 40th over.
In reply, West Indies were given a fighting hand by Morton but ultimately a lack of partners and a steepling run rate undid his fine effort. Unlike most of the other West Indian batsmen, Morton has shown an appetite for a fight, and responded well to the management's decision to promote him up the order. With Chris Gayle out of form in this series and Chanderpaul having shown little bite, Morton's importance has been amplified somewhat. Today his innings was special for the manner in which he took on the challenge and played with a pride so desperately lacking in this current outfit. His driving and cutting was neat and he ensured that at least one West Indian batsman went down fighting.
Coming together after three early wickets - Gayle was set up beautifully by Kyle Mills and was trapped lbw; Daren Ganga drove Scott Styris to mid-on; and Denesh Ramdin edged Mills to first slip - Morton and Ramnaresh Sarwan added 69 before a mid-pitch mix-up ended the revival. Sarwan drove Daniel Vettori firmly wide of mid-off and scampered through for a run, but was sent back going for the second by Morton. Mills, firing in a good throw, caught a diving Sarwan short of his crease and West Indies has slipped further. Aiming to make amends, Morton hit Jeetan Patel high over midwicket for six before bisecting the men at long-on and long-off - twice - as he moved on to his hundred. Chanderpaul stuck around for 30 but fell trying to hit Mills out of the park, Patel holding a good catch at long-on.
For New Zealand, it was another clinical performance with the ball. Apart from Mills (3 for 45), Vettori was in fine form. Teasing Morton with his flight and varying his length, Vettori was successful in containing the only real threat to his side and finished with figures of 1 for 32 from his ten overs. Shane Bond (1 for 43) controlled the flow of runs while Scott Styris performed the back-up seamer's role well.
For West Indies, it was a sloppy day in the field. As Vincent and Astle motored along in the morning, misfields became commonplace, dives on the boundary became lethargic, and singles became twos due to errant throws. Fidel Edwards and Gayle apart, West Indies' bowling was pedestrian and the team was made to rue run-out opportunities - Edwards missed a chance off his own bowling while Gayle's flash at the non-strikers end just missed. Once Edwards was seen off, New Zealand cashed in on the wayward Bradshaw and Butler, and the part-time offerings of Smith, Wavell Hinds and Sarwan. Gayle, with 3 for 50, emerged the most successful bowler in a slaughtering that showcased the difference between the sides in this series.
Chris Gayle lbw b Mills 5 (8 for 1)
Offered no shot to a ball dead straight on middle
Daren Ganga c Mills b Styris 15 (46 for 2)
Limp shot, came forward and tapped it to mid-on
Denesh Ramdin c Styris b Mills 10 (64 for 3)
Slashed at one outside off, good overhead catch at first slip
Ramnaresh Sarwan run out (Mills) 42 (133 for 4)
Turned for the second, partner not interested, good throw from mid-off
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Patel b Mills 30 (212 for 5)
Lofted down to long-on, good jumping catch
Dwayne Smith c Styris b Vettori 1(214 for 5)
Went for a slog-sweep, ball lobbed to backward square leg
Wavell Hinds st McCullum b Astle 0 (221 for 7)
Dragged forward, foot in the air as wicketkeeper whipped off the bails
Dwayne Bravo c McCullum b (229 for 8)
Drove a ball on off, thin edge to the keeper
Stephen Fleming c Ramdin b Smith 67 (106 for 1)
Tried to run it down to third man, thick edge
Nathan Astle c Ganga b Gayle 81 (262 for 2)
Lofted high towards long-on, good catch
Lou Vincent c Ganga b Gayle 102 (274 for 3)
Looked to force the pace, holed out to long-on
Ross Taylor run out (Morton) 15 (284 for 4)
Drove to mid-on, partner called for second, out by miles
Scott Styris c Smith b Gayle 5 (290 for 5)
Swept hard and flat to deep midwicket
Brendon McCullum c Sarwan b Bradshaw 21 (317 for 6)
Chipped to backward point
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo.