The Duckworth Lewis system's ability to bring relief and despair kicked in hard as New Zealand clinched the fifth and deciding ODI against the West Indies at McLean Park yesterday.
Had the rain which squelched the contest with 15 overs remaining arrived two overs earlier, the West Indies would have won the match. It was that close. Instead the series went to New Zealand 2-1, enhancing their strong home record in ODI series to six wins and a draw from the last seven rubbers.
Chasing the West Indies' formidable 293 for nine, New Zealand were well ahead of the required rate, slowed down, lost wickets, but just had their noses in front at 211 for five when rain enveloped the ground, giving them a nine-run win. At the end, New Zealand's target was 83 off 90 balls, and the West Indies were right in the hunt.
It was an unfortunate, if appropriate, way for the tour to end. Of the nine international matches, only the two Twenty20 matches and the third ODI were completely unaffected by rain.
The two ways to accumulate a large one-day score were on display yesterday.
New Zealand chose the rocketing start approach. Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder had 40 off the first three wayward overs from Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell. That became 97 for one off 10 before the West Indies' bowlers, Kieron Pollard in particular, began to peg them back.
Martin Guptill played a solid second ODI innings to follow his century four days ago but Ross Taylor's growing importance to this batting lineup was again in evidence as he steered New Zealand home with a smart 48 not out off 71 balls.
When Daniel Flynn and Neil Broom were out in consecutive Powell deliveries in the 29th over, the Duckworth Lewis rules roared into life. In the space of two balls, New Zealand went from being 21 runs ahead under the method used to decide rain-affected matches, to seven behind.
Taylor and Grant Elliott won the game by taking 15 off the 34th over by Lionel Baker to nudge New Zealand ahead and the players came off an over later.
The West Indies innings was built around two outstanding hands from their senior pair, captain Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Gayle played two outstanding innings on tour; his 197, also in Napier, saved the second test; and his bludgeoning 135 in 129 balls yesterday - nine fours, five sixes, the best a meaty blow out of the ground off Mark Gillespie - could easily have won the ODI series for his team.
By contrast, Chanderpaul's first 26 scoring shots were singles, in 56 balls.
Having chosen the 35th over to have their five-over power play, it was as if the batsmen flicked a switch. Gayle had just completed his 19th ODI hundred and Chanderpaul cut loose.
Those five overs went for 67 as the pair took New Zealand's bowlers apart. It was as if the genie was out of the bottle. The scoring rate shot up. The bowlers were too full, too often and paid for it.
Chanderpaul's improvisation was stunning. He reverse swept captain Dan Vettori twice in an over to reach his 53rd ODI 50, then repeated the shot for six.
His last 68 runs took only 35 balls. When Gayle was out, the stand had produced 170 in 158 balls.
New Zealand did a reasonable job once Gayle was gone. From that point, seven wickets fell for 50.
All the bowlers got the treatment, although Kyle Mills, in his first six overs, and Vettori, whose first eight cost only 18, were the pick.
New Zealand players either return to State Shield duty or rest up before the Chappell Hadlee series in Australia, starting in Perth on February 1.
The West Indies head home to prepare for the arrival of England early next month.By David Leggat Email David