Lendl Simmons felt "free" during his match-winning innings on Saturday, an innings that guided West Indies to an easy win against Zimbabwe in the first Twenty20 in North Sound. Simmons was returning to the side after being left out of the preceding ODI series, and he said he relished compiling the knock of 63 not out.
"I enjoyed my knock today, that's the way I like to play. It was good coming back into the team. I was feeling like myself again," Simmons said after the match. "I came into this game in good form and it was matter of me going out and expressing myself. Once I got myself set, I looked to bat as deep in the innings as I could."
Simmons had last played for West Indies on the tour to Bangladesh in December. After that he had a satisfactory Caribbean T20 for Trinidad & Tobago, finishing the tournament fourth on the overall runs charts with 182 runs at 30.33.
On return, Simmons opened the innings and batted through, ending the chase of 131 with a straight six in the 17th over. After a couple of sixes in the Powerplay, he slowed down a bit, going from 18 off 13 to 26 off 31, before launching once again. His 63 runs came off 49 balls and included six sixes.
"It is always nice to have a good understanding with your batting partner and [the other opener, Johnson] Charles said the small target could be tricky, so he said one of us should 'go at it'. I said 'let's both go at it' in the first six overs," Simmons said. "The sensible thing to do was to go with the breeze rather than against the breeze, so I decided to target those boundaries."
Simmons, who has a career strike-rate of 69 in ODIs and 122 in T20s, said he knows he does not have a reputation as a big-hitter, but he trusts himself to dispatch the balls that suit him. "I am not seen as one of the power-hitters in the team, but when I get [bad] balls I know I can clear the boundaries. I decided to rotate the strike here against the offspinner [Prosper Utseya] and I said to [Dwayne] Bravo I would look to take the attack to the bowler at the other end [North End]. It worked for us today."
Dwayne Bravo was involved in an unbroken 85-run stand with Simmons, which took West Indies home with eight wickets and 23 balls to spare.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor said his team's below-par batting performance was "frustrating". Zimbabwe have been struggling to get off to solid starts with the bat all tour, with a top opening stand of 39 in four limited-overs games. Here they slumped to 28 for 3 in the fifth over, before Craig Ervine and Malcolm Waller attempted to repair the innings with a 60-run stand. None of the lower-middle order could build on the partnership though, leaving Zimbabwe with just 130 to defend.
"It's very frustrating that our top three batters are not getting starts," Taylor said. "We can't rely on our middle order to bail us out every time, but Waller and Ervine batted really well today.
"We made it hard for ourselves, too many dot balls. It's frustrating, we're not playing as well as we can as a unit."
The one positive for Zimbabwe was fast bowler Chris Mpofu, who took both West Indies wickets while conceding 14 runs in his four overs. His performance came after a poor one-day series, in which he took two wickets at 61.00 with an economy rate of 6.65. Taylor had words of praise for him: "Chris is a good character, a strong character, and we knew he'd bounce back."
The teams will play the second Twenty20 on Sunday at the same venue.