West Indies put together their best 50-over block of the series by restricting New Zealand to only 233 in the final game at Auckland, and followed it up with a competent batting performance to sneak a thrilling win by three wickets with two balls to spare and staved off a humiliating 0-5 scoreline. Their batsmen, keen to see off Shane Bond early on, played with utmost caution, succeeded in preserving their wickets, and despite scoring painfully slowly initially, managed to get past the finish line.
While there was no exaggerated movement in the air or off the pitch the sheer pace of Bond was enough to keep Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga honest as West Indies began their pursuit of 234. Gayle, who has had a forgettable series, was in all sorts of trouble, poking and prodding before being put out of his misery by a perfectly pitched delivery that beat bat and nailed the top of off stump.
Runako Morton joined Ganga and the two continued the strict vigil. At the end of 10 overs West Indies had scored just 10 runs, but had managed to see off Bond's first spell for the loss of only one wicket.
Morton and Ganga then went after the bowling, hitting through the line and over the top to bring up a smattering of boundaries that bolstered the sagging run-rate. But it was not to last as Morton played across the line to a fullish straight one from James Franklin and had his stumps shattered. At 54 for 2 there was more consolidation to do, and Ganga initially appeared happy to stay in his shell, reaching 34 from 60 balls before trying to hit Jeetan Patel out of the ground, a shot that only resulted in a simple catch to Kyle Mills at long-on. At the halfway mark of their innings West Indies only had 77 on the board.
The fact that they only needed to score at a little more than four an over overall meant that new batsmen coming to the wicket had time to settle in, and this ensured that everyone contributed. While no batsman went on to score a half-century, a string of scores - 38 from Dwayne Bravo and 41 from Shivnarine Chanderpaul in particular - ensured victory. Successive fifty-run partnerships, first between Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds, and then Denesh Ramdin and Hinds sealed a much-needed win that was set up by the bowlers. Ramdin, who was out with one run needed for a crisp 38 from 26 balls, had played an invaluable hand.
When New Zealand chose to bat it was a much sharper West Indian unit that took the field. The ground fielding was enthusiastic and energetic and the bowlers pegged away at a decent line and length. Lou Vincent was the first to suffer as he played around an inswinger from the left-handed Ian Bradshaw and was bowled through the gate. Soon after, Nathan Astle got out trying to play a forcing punch through the off side, against the pacy Fidel Edwards, nicking to the keeper. At 8 for 2 New Zealand were in some trouble.
But Ross Taylor (31), playing only his second ODI, ignored the scoreboard and played with freedom, hitting New Zealand out of a hole. At one stage New Zealand had scored more boundaries than singles, and Taylor threatened to run away with the game. One ambitious swipe too many ended his innings as an adventurous heave across the line crashed into the stumps via the inside edge of the bat.
Stephen Fleming (32) was content to seal one end up, and even the departure of Taylor did not cause him to switch gears. He ensured that the ones and twos came often enough to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking over but fell playing an uncharacteristic flail outside the off, edging Bravo to Ramdin who dived well to his left to take a good catch.
This was where Styris came into the game. Despite beginning shakily, and coming close to being involved in run outs with Fleming, and being dropped by Gayle when he skied a return catch, Styris continued to press on. Short on confidence and not timing the ball too well Styris had to work hard for his runs, but he put a premium on his wicket and concentrated on spending time out in the middle.
While Styris set his stalls out, wickets fell at the other end and soon New Zealand were in trouble at 200 for 7 and the West Indies had another opportunity to wrest the initiative. This time they rose to the challenge. Dwayne Smith had Franklin caught in the deep and then followed it up by ending Styris's stay at the crease. Styris looked to launch a ball out of the ground but got only height, not distance, on the ball and Smith settled under a catch that enabled him to end with figures of 5 for 45. Styris's 90 had formed the backbone of New Zealand's innings, which ended on 233, a few runs short of what was needed.
Lou Vincent b Bradshaw 1 (1 for 2)
Bowled through the gate by a full inswinger
Nathan Astle c Ramdin b Edwards 4 (8 for 2)
Nicked to the keeper trying to play a forcing shot
Ross Taylor b Bradshaw 31 (59 for 3)
Dragged one from outside off back onto his stumps
Stephen Fleming c Ramdin b Smith 32 (96 for 4)
Flashed outside the off, well caught
Peter Fulton c Gayle b Hinds 19 (146 for 5)
Whipped a full ball to midwicket
Hamish Marshall b Smith 19 (188 for 6)
Missed a yorker trying to run the ball to third-man
Brendon McCullum c Ramdin b Smith 10 (200 for 7)
Tickled to the keeper trying to glide the ball to third-man
James Franklin c Taylor b Smith 7 (224 for 8)
Holed out to the deep
Scott Styris c & b Smith 90 (224 for 9)
Hit a ball straight up in the air going for a six back over the bowler's head
Shane Bond b Edwards 5 (233 for 10)
Cleaned up trying to make room and hit an inswinging yorker
Chris Gayle b Bond 2 (6 for 1)
Played down the wrong line and lost his off stump
Runako Morton b Franklin 22 (54 for 2)
Attempted to smear across the line and missed a straight one
Daren Ganga c Mills b Patel 34 (72 for 3)
Holed out to long-on
Dwayne Smith c Vincent b Bond 16 (98 for 4)
Dwayne Bravo st McCullum b Astle 38 (125 for 5)
Came down the pitch to have a mighty heave and missed
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Patel b Mills 41 (175 for 6)
Top-edged a pull
Denesh Ramdin c Styris b Bond 38 (233 for 7)
Slashed a short one to third-man
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo