Sarwan and Ramdin clinch thriller
Denesh Ramdin and Ramnaresh Sarwan kept their cool in a tense finish to hand West Indies a 1-0 series lead after a rain-hit game in Christchurch. New Zealand were favourites when the West Indies needed forty off the last four overs, but Ramdin knocked off 21 runs off his next ten balls to put the visitors on course for a win in the match shortened to 28 overs a side.
The equation had boiled down to four runs off the last over, after offspinner Jeetan Patel leaked 14 off the penultimate one. Tim Southee, who had sent down an outstanding final over in the tied Twenty20 game in Auckland, was again given the responsibility of bowling the final six deliveries. He gave away only two of the first three balls, but a couple of scampered singles finally broke New Zealand hearts.
While it was Ramdin who applied the final touches, it was Sarwan who kept West Indies in the game, anchoring the innings with a calm half-century. Captain Chris Gayle had biffed a 31-ball 36, but two deliveries after launching Daniel Vettori over midwicket for six, he was bowled by a quicker one, leaving Sarwan to shepherd the chase.
The wickets kept tumbling at the other end but Sarwan refused to panic. He collected the singles, punished the loose balls, and didn't buckle under the pressure exerted by a tight spell of bowling from Vettori and Jacob Oram. New Zealand had seemed in control for much of the chase until the final onslaught from Sarwan and Ramdin.
West Indies may be pleased with the win but one cause for concern was that there was little contribution from the younger batsmen in the side. In the absence of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who missed the game with a hand injury, the team look too reliant on their two senior batsmen, Gayle and Sarwan.
By contrast, New Zealand posted a competitive 152 despite the failure of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor, with four batsmen reaching 25. After opting to field, the visitors got the dangerous McCullum early before rain came down in the seventh over just as Jesse Ryder was beginning to cut loose. Play was held up for four hours.
Ryder and Jamie How kept the runs flowing on resumption before Ryder holed out to deep cover off Nikita Miller in the 12th over.
New Zealand struggled to regain momentum after that dismissal; they were unable to score more than five off any of the next ten overs. The pressure created by Miller and Jerome Taylor led to the dismissal of several New Zealand batsmen and the hosts slid to 97 for 5 in 22 overs.
Oram pulled them out of the rut, taking 17 off a Gayle over, and Grant Elliott's big-hitting towards the end boosted New Zealand beyond 150. However, with Elliott not having bowled in both matches of the series, the hosts must work out whether they need a specialist batsman at No. 7.