Cricket: It's a tie, but Windies win

By David Leggat

This is getting tedious. Each time the West Indies come to Eden Park for a Twenty20 clash they end up in a bowl-off.

Last night, the West Indies had it won, New Zealand put the squeeze on and it ended in another tie, when Sulieman Benn nudged a single to point off the final ball by Tim Southee. That left it 155 all - New Zealand's 155 for 7 matched by the tourists 155 for 8.

So, captain Chris Gayle, the night's outstanding individual, went out and belted 25 off a solitary Dan Vettori over - giving him a total of eight sixes for the night - and New Zealand couldn't beat that in their turn.

So a tie, but a win for the West Indies, if you follow.

The last occasion the teams met was in 2006 and that bowl off proved how utterly useless cricketers can be when confronted with three open stumps to hit.

New Zealand managed three out of nine; the West Indies none from eight.

Last night the rules were different, the crowd lapped it up and the tourists' wore the bigger smiles at the finish.

Earlier, the almost capacity 20,000 had a calypso steel band plonking away at the base of the packed terrace and kids sprinting on the outfield for a 10-second jive, not to signal the end of an over, but a simply a boundary.

A spot of seasonal Grinchness? Rather less of the dancers wouldn't hurt. But, hey, it's Christmas and this is Twenty20. Yo ho ho.

The West Indies appeared to be walking it on the back of Gayle's spectacular hitting.

The Jamaican lefthander, the only cricketer to have hit a Twenty20 century, hit the ball with murderous power at times, giving the crowd catching practice, when he wasn't lifting the ball into the scaffolding on the construction site on the southern side of Eden Park.

But at 67, Gayle went big once too often and holed out to long off.

Suddenly four wickets tumbled in 20 balls as spinners Vettori and Jeetan Patel put the pinch on.

The jitters set in, even though the West Indies had been ahead of the comparative run rates throughout.

It became New Zealand's turn to hold the whip hand.

The West Indies needed 16 off the last two overs, seven off the last, bowled by Southee, who earlier had been flayed by Gayle to the fence and beyond.

Shawn Findlay was caught behind off the first, Jerome Taylor run out off the fourth, leaving big Benn on strike with six required. He squirted the first to the third man boundary before tying it up.

At times the white ball can provide a trick of the eye.

Often it can seem to be flying faster off the bat than the test match red. There was no trick about it when Gayle was batting.

So too at times with Ross Taylor, who anchored the New Zealand innings, if a 50-ball knock can be so called.

In a 50-over game a batsman might get two or three overs to find his feet. In Twenty20 it's a couple of balls; if you're not in business within an over the opposition will certainly sniff a whiff of panic setting in.

Taylor banged 63 in 50 balls, with four beefy blows into the crowd.

His biggest, off a Jerome Taylor full toss, would have had the crowd on their feet at Yankee Stadium as it flew deep over the left field fence, forward of square leg into the stadium reconstruction works.

The second and last Twenty20 clash is at Hamilton's Seddon Park tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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