Cricket: Windies' fire dims on damp wicket

By David Leggat

Any benefits to be gained by a couple of hours' cricket yesterday went New Zealand's way.

Even West Indian captain Chris Gayle conceded the hosts had the better of the washed-out opening ODI at the Queenstown Events Centre, which finished with the West Indies 129 for five off 35.4 overs, having been sent in.

If you had to put your house on the one place it wouldn't be raining on New Year's Eve it would be Queenstown. After all, the previous six ODIs at the Queenstown Events Centre - including three on the final day of that year - had been unhindered by rain.

But you'd be less one house thanks to a dose of Sod's Law, as the five-game series was trimmed to a best-of-four. The West Indies tourists were just treading water, so to speak, when, for the third and final time, players headed for the pavilion just before 3pm.

The series moves to Christchurch on Saturday, with captain Daniel Vettori happy with what had been achieved by his bowlers yesterday.

"The bowlers did the job expected of them on that wicket," he said.

"I'm reasonably happy with the way we played, but you never really know unless you play a full game."

It was cruel luck for the locals, who put on a good operation in the holiday resort, teeming with visitors and with a full house in for the opening over.

In hindsight, the game was doomed, with a dodgy forecast and slight drizzle to coincide with the time the players walked on to the ground. There was a short break after one over and another after 13.3 overs before the big pour set in.

In what play was possible, the conditions helped the bowlers. The dampness in the pitch helped the seamers with useful sideways movement. It was a struggle for the batsmen.

Flourishes were rare. Gayle bounced Kyle Mills on to the roof of the stand at mid wicket before being given out, caught behind off the same bowler.

It appeared a poor decision, albeit off a fine delivery. Gayle glared back at umpire Mark Benson, and gave him the teapot look - one hand on his hip - before slowly departing for 25.

So what about umpiring referrals in ODIs? Forget it, said Gayle, who is not a fan of the system anywhere, anytime.

"Definitely not. That's life, you win some, you lose some," he added with a slow smile.

Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was badly out of sorts in the test matches, was tidy in getting to 38 but the West Indies seemed to have set out their stall to aim for 200 rather than push for something more substantial. Both Sarwan and Xavier Marshall, who put on a sedate 50 for the third wicket, had trouble keeping their feet. If they were wearing rubber-soled shoes it was not smart in greasy conditions. If they had spikes, they'd be advised to sharpen them.

The batting was more dabs than dash - at one point the batsmen were held to just 13 singles in seven overs - and the ball was usually on top.

New Zealand's bowlers all had their moments, particularly Mills early on. Vettori and Jacob Oram did a solid restricting job midway through, and Tim Southee chipped a couple of wickets out near the finish.

"I thought it was a good day for New Zealand. They got the better of us, and their outfielding was brilliant," Gayle said.

"Having said that, we already had runs on the board, so you don't know what could have happened later in the game."

Vettori admitted a target of about 200 would have been challenging.

But he's now targeting three wins out of the remaining four matches.

The West Indies hope key batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul is fit for Christchurch. He damaged his left hand and missed yesterday's match.

There was a soft underbelly to the West Indies middle order in Queenstown. The vastly experienced Chanderpaul, the International Cricket Council player of the last year, should fix that.

- NZ Herald

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