– Inept batting, faulty catching and error-prone umpiring feature in West Indies’ seven- wicket loss to New Zealand

THE West Indies won only two of their 15 ODIs against credible opposition last year.
They won’t win many more in 2009 if their batting remains as embarrassingly inept and inexperienced, their catching as faulty and the so-called ICC elite umpires as error prone as they were in the seven-wicket loss in the third of the five ODIs against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium last night.
A little basic cricket intelligence in their approach would also be helpful.

Only one of the three genuine batsmen in the team – and no prizes for guessing which one – put together a reasonable score as the West Indies were bowled out for 128 in 41.4 overs, just five more than their lowest in ODIs against New Zealand.

As usual, Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 45 off 77 balls on his return from a hand injury had to be constructed as so-called batsman after batsman again floundered to the variations of left-arm spin from New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, Man of the Match for his 10-3-20-4 spell.

It took the sensible approach of No.9, Nikita Miller, unbeaten 25 off 36 balls, to inch the total past 100 in successive partnerships of 27 with Chanderpaul and the equally judicious last man, Fidel Edwards.

It was clearly inadequate to prevent a series-levelling defeat.
Yet the pitch was fresh enough to encourage the fast bowlers and Daren Powell, in measure compensating for the ridiculous method of his earlier dismissal, shook the home team and a crowd of close to 12,000 with the wickets of dangerous openers Brendon McCullum, caught at third man, and Jesse Ryder, taken low down at cover, with consecutive balls in his third over.

Jamie How went in his next, neatly taken at long-leg by Jerome Taylor, and suddenly, at 40 for three, the West Indies were energised. Anything was possible.
Three quick setbacks doused their enthusiasm and decided the outcome.

A chance to remove New Zealand’s best, most aggressive batsman, Ross Taylor, before he had scored was missed, wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin letting an edge off the West Indian Taylor’s outswing pass, believing it was better for Gayle next to him at slip. The ball dropped short of the captain and sped to the boundary.
At the opposite end, Taylor, on 9, was taken on the glove by Powell for Ramdin to gather a tumbling leg-side catch. The problem was that the umpire, the Englishman Mark Benson, did not detect what the television replays did visually and audibly and was motionless as the West Indies bawled themselves hoarse in appeal.
In the next over, from Taylor, the left-handed Daniel Flynn was dropped low down at cover by Kieron Pollard before he had notched a run.
So, instead of being 53 for five, New Zealand were 53 for three and the contest was as good as over.

Taylor and Flynn made use of the evident West Indies frustration to power their team home with an unbroken stand of 89 from 13.1 overs.
Powell reacted to Benson’s decision in favour of Taylor with a bouncer that flew over Ramdin’s head for five wides, a waste.

Taylor hoisted Fidel Edwards for huge sixes over long-on and cover, prompting another bouncer and five more wides over the keeper’s head.
By the time Miller’s left-arm spin was introduced, it was only a matter of when and by how many. Taylor hoisted him for his third six, into the spectators beyond the cover boundary. He also stroked four fours in an unbeaten 51, an innings described afterwards by Vettori as the best he had seen from his young champion for some time.
The match ended in farce with Gayle himself firing down a bouncer over the keeper’s head that counted for five wides, followed by another that brought three wides.
It has been obvious throughout the tour that the West Indies batting is made up of four batsmen – Gayle, Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan of the old brigade and the newcomer Brendan Nash, aged 30 with the benefit of several seasons in Australian state cricket.

Gayle, bamboozled and bowled by a Kyle Mills’ perfect slower ball for 18, and Sarwan, wildly slashing Tim Southee for a spectacular second slip catch by How, managed only 23 between them after the West Indies were sent in. Nash was not even in the starting eleven.

When the West Indies field a batting order with the left-hander Shaun Findlay, not even a regular in the Jamaica team, at No.5, Ramdin at No.6 and Kieron Pollard at No.7, it is obvious that a collapse is never too far away.
One duly developed.
Findlay, scoreless for 15 balls and with two boundaries his only scoring shots from 25 balls, was simply not good enough to keep out Southee’s incoming yorker.
Vettori, on the other hand, was too good for Ramdin, Pollard, Taylor and Powell until Miller arrived to limit the embarrassment.

Pollard was unlucky with another mistake by Benson, who failed to identify the thick inside edge as he thrust forward in defence. But the manner of Powell’s dismissal typified the West Indies’ batting.

With 20.4 overs remaining and Chanderpaul at the opposite end, he presented an out and out crosshaul, missed and was bowled. As he departed, Vettori’s gesture, head shaking and finger pointing at his temple, told the story in full.

Two matches remain in the series, in Auckland on Saturday and Napier on Tuesday. The West Indies need something special from the few key men to even press opponents playing as a team.

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