Blazing Simmons gives West Indies easy win
West Indies 131 for 2 (Simmons 63*, Dwayne Bravo 38*) beat Zimbabwe 130 for 8 (Waller 49, Ervine 34, Best 3-18) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
West Indies may have been without Chris Gayle, but they were not exactly missing his presence at the top as Lendl Simmons matched him for destructiveness, making a chase of 131 look ridiculously simple against a listless Zimbabwe at North Sound. Simmons muscled six sixes - mostly slog sweeps over deep midwicket - in an unbeaten half-century that helped West Indies home with nearly four overs to spare.
With the boundary ropes brought forward generously by a few yards, Zimbabwe were not able to take advantage of that after winning the toss, posting an underwhelming total. A partnership of 60 between Malcolm Waller and Craig Ervine gave the visitors some control but either side of that partnership were two collapses.
Zimbabwe got off to a poor start, losing three quick wickets in the Powerplay, but their predicament was more due to poor shot selection. Vusi Sibanda slashed a short ball from Tino Best straight to third man; Brendan Taylor attempted a cheeky reverse paddle before he was set and ended up edging to the keeper; Hamilton Masakadza tried to smack another short ball from Best but was brilliantly taken one-handed by Kieron Pollard at backward point. Masakadza's was not the poorest of shots, but Pollard's sharp reflexes had the better of him. Masakadza was starting to look dangerous, having clubbed Best for a six over deep square leg the previous ball and he walked back in disbelief.
Ervine didn't take long to settle, driving a low full toss off the legspinner Samuel Badree wide of cover and then rocking back and cutting the same bowler past point when he dropped short. The pair progressed at the rate of five and a half runs an over, and were prepared to wait for the loose ball.
Ervine picked up the pace when he cut Darren Sammy over point and then gliding the next ball past the keeper to break a boundary drought that lasted 24 balls. Sunil Narine broke the stand of 60 when he had Ervine stumped, deliberately bowling it wide outside off and spinning it away on seeing the batsman advance. Waller kept the momentum going when he smashed two sixes in an over off Sammy that leaked 18, the most expensive of the innings. Waller looked set for a deserving fifty but was bowled by Narine playing across the line. Waller's fall halted Zimbabwe's charge as they looked to beat the average first innings score at this ground, 134.
Like Gayle, Simmons began watchfully, plodding to 3 off nine balls before opening up. His opening partner Johnson Charles began in robust manner, clipping the first ball of the chase for four, before ripping into Kyle Jarvis. Charles smashed five consecutive fours in Jarvis' second over, with two powerful drives off the front foot through the off side, and the remaining through the on side. Christopher Mpofu gave the Zimbabweans some relief when he trapped Charles lbw, lazily prodding forward, before getting Darren Bravo to miscue a pull to mid-on.
The relief was only temporary. The captain Taylor had himself to blame when he fluffed a run-out chance against Dwayne Bravo, failing to gather the ball as the batsman struggled to make his ground. It was Zimbabwe's last hope of creating pressure. Simmons was merciless against the rookie legspinner Tinotenda Mutombodzi, slogging him for two sixes in his first over. Natsai Mushangwe was dealt with similarly, as Simmons peppered the on side with massive blows. Simmons scored his first four after he had already bashed five sixes and he sealed the chase in style with a straight six off Jarvis, who leaked 39 off 3.1 overs.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo