West Indies 421 (Hope 101, Russell 54) beat New Zealand 330 (Blundell 106, Williamson 85, Brathwaite 3-75) by 91 runs
People who tuned in expecting one dark horse to set the pace, may have left wondering if they'd witnessed another making a statement.
New Zealand, fresh from walloping India a couple of days ago, chose to bowl to have a challenging chase later on, and they got just that. A target of 422, courtesy a century from Shai Hope and contributions from nearly every other batsman.
It was a proper chase, all right. Yet New Zealand lost before they could dig their teeth into it. Martin Guptill, playing against West Indies for the first time since the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal where he smashed 237, was out for five, Sheldon Cottrell saluting him off the field. Then they bid farewell to their chances of making a game of this when Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls also failed to get going.
Tom Blundell, the wicketkeeper, rose to carve out a fine century to reduce the margin of defeat. When it did wrap up, New Zealand had managed a respectable 330, but the 91-run loss means no one will take West Indies lightly at the tournament proper.
For West Indies, the lament has long been that two or three fire, but find themselves having to make up for the failures of their colleagues. On Tuesday, nine of the 11 players scored more than 20, and nine of the top 10 produced strike rates of 110. It was a batting performance inevitably evocative of England over the last four years, and if they manage to replicate this with consistency, their 23-year wait for a World Cup semi-final berth may finally draw to a close.
Hope stroked 101 off 86, without looking aggressive at almost any point during his innings except the start, where he dispatched Trent Boult - otherwise the best bowler of the game on either side - for 19 in his fifth over. The class of his shots, aided by the natural talent he oozes helped him score runs while not taking too many risks or generating the type of eye-catching power one expects to see from West Indies.
New Zealand's bowling performance was, to put it mildly, as ordinary as they've been all year. Boult kept a lid on a total that still ballooned to 422, but Matt Henry couldn't reprise Tim Southee's duties from the other end, with Chris Gayle teeing off in the opening six overs. At the death overs, when Henry returned, he was mercilessly savaged, conceding an eye-watering 107 in the nine overs he bowled.
Ish Sodhi, too, was ordinary, and while Mitchell Santner played the holding role as well as a certain other bespectacled left-arm spinner has done for New Zealand over countless years, the consistency required against a side like the West Indies was missing throughout the innings. The attempted Yorkers regularly became low full tosses or half-volleys, and with the margin of error almost non-existent, the runs rate never seemed to fall even as New Zealand began to take wickets reasonably regularly over the last 20 overs.
That batting performance was deftly backed up by the pace trio of Cottrell, Jason Holder and Kemar Roach, and the game was over before anyone else had rolled their arm over. Holder and Roach in particular gave the batsmen nothing with their lines and lengths, and with New Zealand wary of taking too many risk early on, particularly after the early departure of Guptill, the result was a constant buil-up of pressure.
By the time Kane Williamson and Blundell put on a refined 120-run partnership, all they were doing was bolstering their confidence, instead of threatening to make a meaningful difference to the outcome of the game in hand.
It was that sort of day for New Zealand where even this chic, high-class partnership would end in ugly, ungainly fashion. A mix-up when Blundell attempted a suicidal tthird run somehow ended up with Williamson stranded in the middle of the crease with all the hope of a three-toed sloth on the autobahn. To Blundell's credit, he did put that out of his mind and went on to compile an aesthetic 106 of his own.
With Tom Latham's availability in doubt following a broken finger, Blundell's form will be a sight for sore eyes within the New Zealand dressing room and among their fans.
While New Zealand's last seven wickets put up perfectly respectable resistance in the face of a no-win cause, one could argue West Indies had lost their intensity long before New Zealand officially lost the game. With the result a foregone conclusion within the first 10, West Indies' focus dropped off in the middle, and as a result Oshane Thomas and Carlos Brathwaite will fell they didn't give their best with the ball. There's little doubt that won't happen when there's an actual World Cup game on the line.
These might just have been warm-ups, but a quietly resurgent West Indies are showing they aren't practice swat-aways for any side now. The team that reached the final in all of the first three World Cups in England are unlikely to be group stage cannon fodder any longer.