Duplicitous team selection of the Day Part 1
"It's a batsman's paradise," declared Brian Lara after yesterday's defeat against Australia. Few entirely concurred with him, but even fewer could believe what a dramatic volte-face he would pull overnight. Far from backing the batsmen who had let him down the day before, he instead chastised them by drafting in an extra man in Lendl Simmons, who contributed 14 not out from 26 balls, and faced just one delivery as the last three wickets tumbled.
Duplicitous team selection of the Day Part 2
Simmons did not, of course, just waltz into the side unchallenged. Someone had to be the fall guy and that honour went to Jerome Taylor, the quickest man in the attack (and consequently, you might have thought, the best suited to overcoming the easy-paced conditions). But it got crazier. In Taylor's absence, the new ball was flung to Dwayne Smith, whose medium-pacers weren't even called upon against Australia. "Maybe we have too many bowlers," Lara had shrugged when quizzed about Smith's lack of use against the Aussies. Nobody for one minute imagined that could possibly have constituted a weakness.
Flaccid dismissal of the Day
Once again there were almost too many to choose from, but this time the honour goes to Smith whose demotion to No. 9 in the order was fully justified by hindsight. A second-ball slog went spiralling over midwicket, but just four deliveries later he was gone to the most atrociously-mistimed sweep since Sooty lost his autocue.
Catch of the Day
It wasn't just a tale of West Indian ineptitude, however. New Zealand were full value for their victory because they played the sort of cricket that deserves to win matches. Take the wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum for instance, whose one-handed pluck off Ramnaresh Sarwan's inside-edge was a moment of genuine brilliance. His weight was already transferring to the off-side, but he braced, buckled, sprung and stretched to shift his momentum in the opposite direction and clung on at full stretch with his weaker left hand.
Run-out of the Day
Sprinting, bending and stretching aren't the sort of things that most self-respecting 37-year-olds put themselves through, so when Scott Styris pushed Dwayne Bravo to Brian Lara's right in the covers, he was well within his rights to assume an easy single was on the cards. Lara however had other ideas, and with the grace of an ageing gazelle, he snatched the ball from the turf and pinged down the stumps with Stephen Fleming not even in the frame.
Anticlimax of the Day
You could say the crowd, but they are yesterday's news. Once again the attendance was poor as the logistics of filling a stadium in the middle of nowhere sapped the local enthusiasm. There was one man who had the capacity to bring back the crowds, however. Chris Gayle is the kingpin of this current West Indian line-up, and after a tortuous first half to his innings, he was beginning to cut loose. After seven runs from his first 19 balls he had recovered to 44 from 55, but then got too cute as Jacob Oram dropped one short, and inside-edged onto his stumps. A century was what was needed, but at 81 for 4 the game was up.
Bowler of the Day
Oram's were the outstanding figures, with 3 for 23, and Daniel Vettori grabbed a trio of his own, but it was once again Shane Bond who was New Zealand's indisputable cutting edge. He cranked up the pace to levels unmatched on either side, and struck in each of his three spells. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was becalmed, then beaten by late movement; Dwayne Bravo fenced at the very first ball of Bond's return, while the No. 11 Corey Collymore couldn't counter a perfect yorker. For all his injury problems, Bond has now taken 23 wickets in 11 World Cup matches, at a stunning average of 16.26.