Sammy, Chanderpaul give Windies series lead
Eighty balls into the chase, it was all but over. A penetrative spell from Darren Sammy, in which he took three wickets from his first three overs - adding one more to his tally later in the innings - left the Zimbabwean top order reeling in their chase of 246 at Arnos Vale. The visitors, at one stage reduced to 58 for 5, went on to concede the game by 141 runs, which gave West Indies a 2-1 lead in the series.
A steady half-century by Shivnarine Chanderpaul set the platform for West Indies to accelerate to a competitive 245. The hosts had to overcome Zimbabwe's full complement of spinners and, after a long period of grafting, managed to score 92 off the last ten overs. It took 27 overs for Zimababwe to score the same number of runs, but by then had lost nine wickets.
It was a combined bowling effort by West Indies which sunk them, with Sammy the protagonist. Kemar Roach struck a psychological blow in the third ball of the chase when he sent Vusi Sibanda's off stump cartwheeling with a 91mph yorker. It was déjà vu for Sibanda, who not only lost his off stump but also broke his bat in the first ODI where Roach bowled an identical delivery. Roach has now made it a habit to bowl yorkers with the new ball - he did that to Shane Watson first ball in the ICC Champions Trophy last year.
Hamilton Masakadza seemed the only player to get a measure of the seamers, using the front-foot pull effectively to the slower pace of Ravi Rampaul. A 51-run stand with Brendan Taylor put the chase on track but Sammy changed all that when he was introduced in the tenth over. Taylor spooned a pitched-up delivery back to the bowler before Tatenda Taibu feathered an edge to the keeper in Sammy's following over. Three balls later, Dwayne Bravo entered the wickets tally when he trapped Stuart Matsikenyeri lbw for a golden duck. The well-set Masakadza joined the procession when he edged Sammy to Denesh Ramdin while trying to run him down to third man.
In the space of 21 balls, the score went from 51 for 1 to 58 for 5 and a big defeat for Zimbabwe seemed inevitable. Roach returned for a new spell and trapped Elton Chigumbura lbw and it got worse for the visitors when Timycen Maruma fell to a beauty from Sammy which held its line and shaved the off stump. Chris Gayle took a stunning one-handed catch at slip to give Roach his third wicket and within 32 overs, Zimbabwe folded.
West Indies' bowling effort put to rest the debate over whether it was wise decision to leave out the spinner Sulieman Benn. The pitch had some moisture to assist the seamers, but Zimbabwe opted to play to their strengths - spin. West Indies did the opposite and in the end it was the seamers who had the last laugh.
After being put in, West Indies didn't have a blazing Chris Gayle fifty to give them an early push, so it was up to Chanderpaul to grind it out and build an innings. By and large it was hard work for West Indies who had to run a lot between the wickets - till the third Powerplay was taken before the 42nd over, they managed only seven fours and two sixes.
With spin deployed from the second over of the innings, it was clear that Zimbabwe's strategy was to strangle the batsmen by bowling a restrictive line, with the pitch offering enough bounce as assistance. It was upto the hosts to try and work around that and scrape out as much as possible on a venue not known for producing high scores.
Chanderpaul was best suited to that situation. He walked in at the 16th over when West Indies had hobbled to an unsatisfactory 48. He nudged and nurdled his way, picking the gaps and hurrying his partner Ramdin, who was promoted ahead of Narsingh Deonarine to get an opportunity to spend more time in the middle.
Chanderpaul picked up his first boundary, sweeping Prosper Utseya to deep square leg, after he had faced 36 balls. But he kept the scoreboard moving and the lack of boundaries didn't slow down the run rate. In fact, between overs 29 and 33, when Chanderpaul and Ramdin were together, the rate was consistently over five an over. It was in contrast to the first two Powerplays, when the rate hovered around three. Back then the spinners kept the openers in check, even with the new ball.
The five spinners focused on bowling restrictive lines, varying the flight and making the batsmen think twice before going for the big hits. However, Utseya didn't have too many men close to the bat to choke them further. There were singles to be taken and Chanderpaul was happy to capitalise.
Ramdin didn't make the best use of his promotion, preferring to play the supporting role to Chanderpaul. After Ramdin's departure, a communication breakdown between Chanderpaul and Deonarine saw the former run out by miles off a direct hit by Utseya.
The arrival of Bravo and later Kieron Pollard helped West Indies surge ahead in the batting Powerplay. Not all heaves found the middle of the bat though - there were ungainly swipes and inside out shots which fell short of the fielders. But in that five-over period, West Indies managed 43 runs. Pollard, Deonarine and Rampaul cleared the ropes three times over the on side as West Indies neared a competitive total. Fifteen overs later, it ceased to be a contest.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo