New Zealand's stand-in captain Kane Williamson hopes an improved performance with the ball and in the field during Wednesday's victory in St Kitts will be the catalyst for a turnaround in the side's fortunes for the rest of their Caribbean trip. But despite the 88-run win over West Indies, Williamson conceded New Zealand's batting still needed to lift in order for them to escape with a series win, with West Indies ahead 2-1.
Williamson said he was hopeful that captain Ross Taylor, who missed the start of the series due to a shoulder injury, could be considered for the fourth ODI on Saturday, which New Zealand must win to stay alive in the series. Even if Taylor is not passed fit, they should regain Brendon McCullum, who was originally to be rested for the one-day internationals but flew in to join the squad on Tuesday, although he didn't play in the victory.
Those potential inclusions will be tempered by the loss of BJ Watling, who suffered a leg injury during his innings of 40 and did not take the field during the West Indies innings. Watling was one of several men who made contributions for New Zealand, along with Rob Nicol (59) and Nathan McCullum (50), but Williamson said bigger scores would be needed in the remaining two games.
"It is promising but I think the batting is an area we need to look at in terms of turning those fifties, which are really starts, into bigger scores to make the difference in an innings," Williamson said. "That's somewhere that we're looking to improve on looking forward. It's nice to have Brendon in the camp and hopefully Ross is looking good for the next one. It was a real shame to lose BJ, who has been our stronghold in the batting order down at six."
New Zealand posted 249 for 9, having been sent in by Darren Sammy, and a solid performance in the field, including three run-outs and some sharp catching, meant West Indies were bowled out for 161 in the chase. McCullum, Jacob Oram and the debutant Trent Boult took two wickets each, and Williamson said it was a much improved effort from the side.
"It's a great shift in momentum, hopefully," he said. "Putting a few things into practice, lessons from the other games. It's nice to get a win in such a crucial game. I think the bowling performance was a little bit better executed in terms of the plans and what we wanted to achieve. Things went our way and hopefully that's the momentum shift we needed in the series.
"Those sort of matches where you must win and we showed that fight today, which was really important. It was nice to step up and win this match and keep the series alive through a really strong fielding and bowling effort."
Sammy said that having sent New Zealand in, he was happy with a chase of 250 at the halfway mark of the match, and he credited New Zealand's fielding as the key reason they claimed the win. However, West Indies can still wrap up the series if they win on Saturday, and Sammy said the players were already looking ahead to their next opportunity.
"New Zealand played really well. It was an off day for us," Sammy said. "We've already put it behind us and we're looking forward to Saturday, to get back to our winning start in the series. We've been playing some good cricket. We won't let one game dampen the spirit of the boys.
"They outfielded us today and they were much more positive in their approach. The guys felt we could restrict them to a low total. Chasing down 250 here, we should have gotten it. But they seemed to execute their plans much better today and they were really good in the field."