ANOTHER New Zealand batsman took advantage of the West Indies’ unintentional, but seemingly unavoidable, generosity to help himself to a hundred in his first international match yesterday.
Martin Guptill, a tall, right-hand opener on debut on his home ground of Eden Park, was dropped three times, at 10, 21 and 33, errors that allowed him to proceed to an unbeaten 122 before the fourth ODI, like the first, was victim of the fickle New Zealand weather and abandoned without a decision.
It leaves the last match of the tour, the fifth ODI in Napier on Tuesday, to break the overall deadlock between the teams after two drawn Tests, a 1-1 share of the 20/20s and the 1-1 situation in the present series.
Guptill’s third wicket partnership of 122 from 26.5 overs with Ross Taylor, as dashing as ever with 75 off 87 balls, formed the basis of a commanding New Zealand total of 275 for four from their 50 overs after the West Indies had endured two shambolic 10-over blocks at the start and the end of the innings.
Gayle himself was in his familiar six-hitting mode when the West Indies had two gos at pursuing the goal.
He launched one in the initial 8.4 overs when they were 47 without loss at the first rain intervention, two more off the 11 balls possible before the weather took over for the last time. All were straight and hit with awesome force as he reached 46 off 37 balls.
The 15,000 spectators, jubilant at Guptill’s triumph, were primed for more as the West Indies were 64 without loss after 10.3 overs in pursuit of the Duckworth/Lewis revised goal of 235 off 40 overs.
Sewnarine Chattergoon (Gayle’s reinstated partner, not Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the captain had indicated after the previous match) was 17 and as secure as in any of his previous innings on tour.
Guptill’s 122 was second only to Desmond Haynes’ 148 against Australia at the Antigua Recreation Ground in 1978 as the highest score by a batsman in his first ODI innings.
He played with increasing confidence and fluency, arriving at his special landmark with a monster six into the stand at mid-wicket off Gayle, one of his three to go with his eight fours.
Three weeks ago in Napier, another opener, the left-handed Tim McIntosh, offered a lobbed, unaccepted catch off Fidel Edwards when 10 and proceeded to 136 in his second Test innings.
The West Indies must expect that, if they continue to present such offerings, they will have to pay for them.
Wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin was the culprit the first time, lazily going for a catch high to his right off Daren Powell with one glove.
Brendan Nash, whose reputation is such that Australia once used him as substitute fielder in a Test against the West India, spilled the others, low to his right at cover first time, wide to his left off his own bowling the next.
This coincided with a slapdash period for the West Indies.
Gayle read the pitch correctly, chose to bowl and expected Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell to reap rewards from a cloud cover that offered swing and a pitch that favoured seam.
Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee, masters in such conditions, would have scythed through such a batting order. At their best, Edwards and Powell would have had at least a couple of wickets.
They did occasionally pass the bat and induce a false shot but there was plenty wide, either too full or too short, for Guptill and Brendan McCullum to feed on. The extras also mounted through byes and wides.
Lionel Baker, in because Taylor rested a strained calf muscle, put a stop to the advance with a spell of 10 consecutive overs of impeccable control for 29 that included the wickets of McCullum and the returning Matthew Sinclair, both edging to Ramdin. He was supported by Nash’s on-the-spot left-arm, medium-pace inswing to the extent that there was no boundary for 79 balls.
But Guptill and Taylor made sure to keep their wickets in tact and they and the all-rounder Nigel Broom, another newcomer, combined to lash 93 off the last 10 overs.
The left-arm spinner Nikita Miller and Gayle went for over seven an over as Guptill and Broom opened up, knowing there were wickets in hand.
In the end, it all meant nothing except to statisticians who would be excited over Guptill’s record.