Cricket: Gayle remains the focus for Black Caps

By Cameron McMillan

The Black Caps bounced back against the West Indies by taking out the third ODI. Can they keep the series alive on Sunday? Photo / AP
The Black Caps bounced back against the West Indies by taking out the third ODI. Can they keep the series alive on Sunday? Photo / AP

You don't need to have played as many games as Jacob Oram to know a team shouldn't get carried away with one win, especially when you need two more to win a series, but the Black Caps all-rounder says yesterday's 88-run victory over the West Indies has provided a much needed boost to a previously winless tour.

The Black Caps kept the ODI series alive with their impressive performance in St Kitts and have a chance to push for a decider when the teams clash again in the fourth ODI on Sunday (NZT).

The 158-game veteran says there is still plenty of work to do but the manner of the side's win was perfect for their confidence.

"Obviously the players took a lot of satisfaction out of yesterday. Not only did we win but we won convincingly which has actually helped individuals in their approach to the next game.

"We're well aware that it's two games left and we're still 2-1 down so while yesterday was great, we're trying to not get too far off the ground because if we don't win the fourth game then the fifth one doesn't really matter."

The Black Caps don't only head into the next match with momentum on their side but also with a change of fortune on the injury front.

Doug Bracewell and Andrew Ellis are both available for the next must-win encounter following injury breaks while Brendon McCullum is set for his first taste of the Caribbean this tour after arriving from New Zealand earlier in the week.

However the swinging doors of the team physio's office continues with BJ Watling expected to miss the rest of the series as he awaits tests on a strained quad and remains in doubt for the two tests.

The obvious difference between yesterday's game and the previous four matches of the tour was the early dismissal of West Indies opener Chris Gayle who has been a main focus for the Black Caps from the first Twenty20 match.

Oram says Gayle taught the Black Caps a lesson over the first two weeks of the tour but Tim Southee turned the tide when he had him caught behind for a tame 11 from 22-balls early into West Indies' chase.

"We knew all along that he was going to be the real danger man and we talked about just trying to get him out and I think yesterday Tim Southee, into the wind bowled, bowled a really good spell.

"No way do we feel like we're on top of Chris Gayle. He's still probably average 80 or something like that for the tour so far so we know he's going to be a massive thorn in our sides and we've got to work just as hard to dismiss him and then work on the others.

"We always talked about just exposing the rest of their top order, let alone their middle order, to bring pressure which they hadn't been under for four games on the tour. On top of that we fielded as well as I've ever seen. Yes we dropped a couple of catches but those three run outs, you'll go a long way to see better."

Oram says it's taken 10 days but the side are finally into their groove in the West Indies with the bowlers finding their rhythm and the batsmen starting to hit the middle of the consistently.

He says the much talked about lack of preparation has hampered the team but isn't using it as an excuse.

"It would have been nice to have an extra 10 days or a week somewhere so that that teething period and that period of finding our feet had actually occurred during a camp and during some warm-up games as opposed to our first hit-out being a Twenty20 international against the West Indies in Miami. However that wasn't the case and that's not an excuse for playing poorly. We should have been ready."

Sunday's match will be played on a new pitch at Warner Park but the final match and possible series decider is expected to be on the same strip used for the third ODI which will favour the slower bowlers. Oram says that is in the back of the side's minds and how they deal with spinner Sunil Narine is going to be vital.

"Narine is a big player for them. He's not your ordinary off-spinner. He's very much a Muralitharan who can bowl the doosra and a little bit like Sri Lanka's Ajantha Mendes as well where he's got a carrom ball so he has a number of options up his sleeve. When the ball starts turning it becomes a tough proposition to score against but that just means we've got to work out ways to score against him or we're going to perish in a hole."

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