On a beautiful sunny day at Arnos Vale and on a pitch that offered good bounce, the Zimbabwe batsmen found the going too tough, and managed another below-par total that was chased not without huff and puff despite Chris Gayle's explosive start. But for a fighting fifty from Charles Coventry, who was inexplicably left out of the XIs so far, Zimbabwe would have struggled to get past even 100.
Gayle started St Vincent's National Heroes' Day celebrations in earnest with an onslaught at the start of the chase, but in a bizarre collapse the West Indies middle order managed to wipe the smiles off the faces of the partying crowd. Gayle smacked a 41-ball 63 out of the 96 runs scored while he was in the middle, but the next three batsmen threw their wickets away, bringing Zimbabwe right back in at 104 for 5. Keiron Pollard, though, came in and struck two fours and two sixes in eight balls to bring the smiles back.
It shouldn't even have gone close after the way the Zimbabwe batsmen capitulated. What will hurt Zimbabwe, who are aiming for a Test return, is that the failure came on a day Kemar Roach was rested. There was no disconcerting seam movement either, just good carry. In their fast bowler's absence, Darren Sammy and Ravi Rampaul produced the wicket-taking deliveries to leave Zimbabwe in tatters at 25 for 5. The fifth wicket fell in the 16th over, by which time Zimbabwe had hit just one boundary, and had failed to score off 87 deliveries - 25 of them at a stretch. None of the top five reached double-figures, and Zimbabwe were flirting with their own record for the lowest total in ODIs - 35.
As soon as Hamilton Masakadza fell without troubling the scorers, Zimbabwe were looking at a long struggle. Even before Masakadza top-edged Rampaul while pulling a delivery slightly too full, another important blow had been struck by Dave Bernard. Bowling a free-hit in the first over of the innings, Bernard hit Vusi Sibanda in the right glove, and since then Sibanda's 49-ball stay for eight runs was painful in more ways than one.
Sibanda and Timycen Maruma shut shop like it was a national holiday, and went more than four overs without scoring a run. When they did get a run, though, there was no time for celebrations. Four balls later, Rampaul got Maruma to edge one that bounced at him. At 11 for 1 after eight overs, Brendan Taylor brought some intent to the middle, even managing a boundary in the 13th over, off-driving a Dwayne Bravo half-volley, but Sammy pushed them back further.
In the next over, he removed the two keepers, Taylor and Tatenda Taibu. Taylor was dismissed by a full delivery that moved in ever so slightly, and Taibu by one that shot up. Sibanda followed the exodus, pulling Sammy to deep square leg.
Elton Chigumbura, easily Zimbabwe's most confident batsman on the tour, started to loosen the shackles with a 23-ball 19, and Coventry carried on, accelerating from 21 off 42 to end up with 57 off 88. Chigumbura became the first man to go past single-figures, but he cut Pollard's first delivery into point's lap.
Along with Greg Lamb, Coventry added 57 for the seventh wicket. The fast bowlers were taken off, scoring became easier, and both batted sensibly. It took a freakish bit of work from Bravo to get rid of Coventry: off his own bowling, he kicked the ball from almost short cover to hit the stumps direct. With eight wickets gone in 42.1 overs, there wasn't much the tail could do.
When he came out for the chase, Gayle waited for about four overs and Adrian Barath's wicket before he opened up. For the first time on the tour, Zimbabwe were forced to take Ray Price out of the attack. Finally Gayle had got the better of him, and also hit the successful Chigumbura out of the attack.
Gayle cut, drove and lofted with aplomb; one of his two sixes nearly made it to the nearby airport's parking lot. When he holed out going for a third six, he had left the rest 62 runs to get in 34.4 overs. Then came the West Indies twist: the Bravo brothers got stumped and Narsingh Deonarine hit straight down long-off's throat. Pollard, though, went on to provide merit to the price bid for him in the IPL by striking big and clean, and scoring 36 off 20 balls to finish the match with 22.2 overs to spare.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo