Benn stars in thrilling tie
Chris Gayle's whirlwind display of hitting broke the deadlock in a thrilling match that was evenly balanced until the first-ever Super Over contest in an international Twenty20. The official result was a tie, which West Indies secured with the last ball of their regulation 20 overs, but that brought on cricket's latest innovation - and more drama.
The Super Over - first devised for the Stanford tournament last month - is an unofficial exercise but served its purpose, to please the crowd. It began in the wake of some confusion - fans, players and even officials wondered what would follow once Sulieman Benn secured the tie - and a 20-minute break thanks in part to a lighting problem.
Once the teams named their line-up Gayle walked out to face six balls from Daniel Vettori with Xavier Marshall at the non-striker's end. When Marshall was run out, Chanderpaul came to the non-striker's end, but Gayle kept the strike for the rest of the over and by the end had thumped Vettori for 25 runs.
In reply, Benn, playing his part as left-arm spinner, held his nerve to take two wickets and concede just 15 from the four legal deliveries he bowled. Jacob Oram was caught in the outfield on Benn's third delivery before Ross Taylor hit the next ball, a shoulder-high no-ball, over the ropes for six. But Benn then yorked Taylor to complete a famous - if unofficial -victory for the visitors.
Jerome Taylor and Benn had forced the game into the elimination overs with a nerveless batting display in the final over. Needing seven to win, West Indies had lost Shawn Findlay from Tim Southee's first ball, slashing a wide delivery to Brendon McCullum. Southee bounced Fidel Edwards first ball before conceding a single to cover on the third.
When Taylor played and missed fourth ball, the pair ran and McCullum threw down the stumps to get Edwards short of his ground. Admirably, Benn kept his cool and edged Southee for four through third man first ball. With two needed to win from the final delivery, he then pushed to point to claim the regulation-time tie.
Gayle's scintillating 67 off 41 had given West Indies a head start in their chase of New Zealand's 155. Gayle played some tremendous cricket shots in his quick-fire half-century, hitting five sixes and five fours in a wonderful display of power hitting. West Indies were cruising at 109 for 2 at one stage before Vettori pegged them back, and when Gayle was caught by Taylor off Jeetan Patel at long-off, they stumbled to 114 for 4 with 42 needed off 35 balls.
Gayle and Xavier Marshall added 63 for the second wicket off 42 balls before Marshall was bowled from the first ball of Vettori's spel. Marshall looked far better than he showed in the Test series and his aggressive approach took the game away from New Zealand with Gayle charging ahead at the other end.
Vettori was masterful, changing his pace constantly and tempting the batsmen to use their feet to him. Not even Gayle got the better of him and he frustrated Ramnaresh Sarwan into hitting aerially to Daniel Flynn at point (112 for 3). Vettori ended up with 3 for 16 to bring the hosts right back onto the match, and Patel took 2 for 34.
Shortly after, Kieron Pollard was defeated in flight by Vettori and lofted to Patel at long-on (124 for 5). With 26 needed off 22 balls, Carlton Baugh lost his cool and skied a sweep shot straight up in the air which McCullum ran to midwicket to claim.
New Zealand's total, a disappointing 155 for 7, owed much to Taylor's 63 off 50 balls. Taylor looked to midwicket for his boundaries, hitting four fours and four sixes in total. New Zealand struggled to put together any real partnership of note as the West Indian attack mixed up their pace and length to perfection. The hosts found the lack of pace tough to conquer, with the spinners Gayle and Benn easily the pick of the bowlers. Gayle took 3 for 16 and Benn 1 for 20.
It wasn't their final contribution to an eventful evening.