– Sarwan, Ramdin see Windies home in thriller

By Tony Cozier
In CHRISTCHURCH

THROUGH a combination of nerveless commonsense and timely inventiveness, two batsmen who could scarcely eek out a run in the preceding Tests carried the West Indies through to a pulsating victory with one ball to spare in the second ODI against New Zealand at the AMI Stadium here last night.

They were set 158 to win from 28 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis method in a match reduced by a lengthy period of heavy rain, thunder, lightning and even hail when New Zealand, sent in, were 26 for one from 6.5 overs.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Denesh Ramdin put on 48 for the sixth wicket from the last 5.2 overs to carry the West Indies home with one ball remaining.

Able to scratch together a mere 37 runs between them in six innings in the two Tests, they both regained the touch that has often benefited the West Indies in similarly tight situations in the past.

Sarwan’s average of 44 in 137 ODI innings attest to his ability in the shorter game where his forte was once holding steady to the end and closing the deal. So it was now.

He entered when Sewnarine Chattergoon’s middle stump was uprooted by Tim Southee in the fourth over and remained to stroke the winning runs, unbeaten 67 from 65 balls with a straight six off Kyle Mills and three fours his main scoring shots.

Not once did he lose his composure, even as captain Chris Gayle was bowled by the wily Daniel Vettori’s fourth ball for 36, from 31 balls, after hoisting a six over midwicket two deliveries earlier.

As more wickets fell around him and the winning pole seemed in the far distance against accueate bowling and typically sharp fielding, Sarwan used singles to good effect and remained fixed on the goal.

When Ramdin joined him on Pollard’s demise at 110 for five half-way through the 23rd over, the force was with New Zealand.

Xavier Marshall had been bowled for 2, swiping. So was Brendan Nash, by off-spinner Jeetan Patel, after steadying the innings for 6.1 overs with Sarwan and lashing the previous ball, a full toss, for a very long six.

When Kieron Pollard’s grim tour continued with a hoisted catch into long-on’s lap, only the bowlers remained and the required run rate was almost 10 an over.

But the neat Trinidadian wicket-keeper has been this way before.

His 38 off 28 balls secured the last West Indies ODI triumph over New Zealand, at Auckland three years ago. Most recently, his 37 off 36 balls helped Trinidad and Tobago earn Allen Stanford’s US$400,000 for the victory over English champions, Middlesex, in the Super Series in Antigua.

His 28 off 18 balls here had the same effect. One of his three fours was the shot of the match, a precisely planned and executed scoop off Southee over fine-leg.

Once again, Vettori was the main obstacle to the West Indies’ advance. He conceded only 18 from his first five overs before he was taken for 10 in the last.

When his allocation was up, 38 were needed off the last four overs. The 27th was crucial, yielding 14, as Patel served up two full tosses that Ramdin carted for boundaries.

Four from the last over would do it for the West Indies, a seeming formality. But it required five balls to get them and, off the third and fourth, wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum and backward point Grant Elliott muffed run out chances by hurling wide of the stumps

The result was fitting reward for an improved West Indies performance. It was evident, even in their pre-match warmup, that they regarded 2008 as past. There was nothing of the slackness of the later days of 2008; instead a new energy to its first match of the New Year.

The bowling was accurate, the catching flawless, with Chattergoon’s two at deep mid-wicket outstanding, and ground fielding keen.

Fidel Edwards’ pace and swing earned him three wickets, Jerome Taylor’s variation’s two.

Nikita Miller’s first bowl of the tour was impressive with the wickets of the dangerous Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor.

The 18 runs Daren Powell conceded in his six overs included one of the left-handed Ryder’s three sixes.

The problem was with the remaining overs. Pollard’s wayward medium-pace cost 26 off two, Gayle’s off-spin went for 28 off three. The batting team’s power play of two overs brought 24.

Left-hander Jacob Oram (25 off 23 balls) and right-hander Elliott (unbeaten 30 off 27 balls), each with a six, were the main beneficiaries.

Vettori said afterwards that the total was “not quite enough.”  Almost but not quite enough. There are three more ODIs to separate both teams – the third on Wednesday in Wellington – and the West Indies had had an immediate boost for the New Year.

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