Windies lose opener despite Simmons, Melius fifties

Left-handed opener Keagan Simmons drives en route to his unbeaten 92 against New Zealand Under-19s on Saturday. (Photo courtesy ICC website)

MOUNT MAUNGANUI, New Zealand,  CMC – Openers Keagan Simmons and Kimani Melius carved out contrasting half-centuries but reigning champions West Indies Under-19s suffered a disappointing start to their title defence when they went down to hosts New Zealand Under-19s by eight wickets here yesterday.

Sent in at Bay Oval in the opening Group A clash, the Caribbean side raced to 123 without loss but a cluster of wickets in the middle overs hurt their momentum, restricting them to 233 for eight off their 50 overs.

Simmons carried his bat for a top score of 92 not out while debutant Melius unfurled a stroke-filled 78 off 85 deliveries.

Left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra (3-30) and fast bowler Matthew Fisher (3-61) picked up three wickets apiece while left-arm spinner Felix Murray supported with two for 37.

New Zealand’s Finn Allen celebrates his century (ICC photo)

In reply, the hosts hardly put a foot wrong as they stormed to their target in the 40th over, with the exciting Finn Allen smashing an unbeaten 115 and Jakob Bhula, 83.

New Zealand took charge from the outset with Bhula and Ravindra (16) putting on 46 from 60 deliveries for the first wicket before Allen arrived to put the result beyond doubt.

The right-hander plundered 15 fours and two sixes in a 100-ball knock, dominating a 163-run, second wicket stand with Bhula who faced 105 balls and counted nine boundaries.

Allen reached his half-century off 43 balls and raised three figures off 92 deliveries in the 37th over, with NZ already on the cusp of victory.

West Indies had earlier made the Kiwis nearly rue their decision to field first when Simmons and Melius dominated the first half of the innings with their century stand.

The left-handed Simmons produced a measured knock, facing 132 deliveries and striking seven fours and a six while Melius was far more expansive, crunching six fours and four sixes in an 85-ball outing.

Melius started circumspectly, gathering a mere four runs from his first 16 deliveries before exploding with an extra cover-driven six off Fisher in the sixth over.

He reached his half-century off 66 balls and continued to free his hands until finally departing in the 28th over, top-edging a slog-sweep at Ravindra to be caught by Bhula next to the square leg umpire.

Bhaskar Yadram joined Simmons to add 22 for the second wicket before holing out to long on off left-arm spinner Murray in the 32nd over, sparking a slide which saw three wickets tumble for five runs in the space of 20 deliveries.

Kirstan Kallicharan was lbw for two to a straight one from Fisher and captain Emmanuel Stewart followed in the next over, chopping on to Murray for one.

Stumbling on 150 for four in the 36th over, Simmons and Alick Athanaze then combined in a 49-run, fifth wicket partnership to stem the flow of wickets.

While Simmons anchored, the left-handed Athanaze was free-scoring, belting two fours and a six in an attractive 33-ball 26.

They were setting the innings up nicely for a strong finish when Athanaze failed to clear the long-on boundary with Ravindra and was taken just inside the ropes in the 45th over.

Simmons, on 75 then, stepped up his scoring but the Windies managed only 34 runs from the last five overs.

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