Cricket: Windies regain edge for Napier

By David Leggat

New Zealand's key issue is fixing their batting - and the wides

Dwayne Bravo appeals unsuccessfully for an lbw during the first ODI at Eden Park on Boxing Day. Photo / Getty Images
Dwayne Bravo appeals unsuccessfully for an lbw during the first ODI at Eden Park on Boxing Day. Photo / Getty Images

Assessing the mood of a team on the strength of one game is a stretch.

Yet the West Indies, on the basis of their two-wicket win which began the five-game rubber against New Zealand at Eden Park on Thursday, put a nice edge into what lies ahead, beginning tomorrow at McLean Park.

Having been drubbed in back-to-back tests, the West Indies badly needed a rousing start, and got it, courtesy of fine new ball bowling in helpful conditions, energetic fielding and bold hitting by Darren Sammy to carry his team home in a game of low-quality batting from both teams.

There must have been huge satisfaction for Sammy as he monstered a short ball from Mitchell McClenaghan deep into the crowd at mid wicket, then smeared the next one to the long on boundary to secure the win.

Sammy had a tough time in the test series, his own form was average but he kept his head up.

Dwayne Bravo, half-brother of key batsman Darren Bravo, hints at similarly strong personal qualities.

He's spoken of the importance of camaraderie, of giving players responsibilities. "Before the game I really stressed unity. The team has been lacking that lately, hence why we've been playing so poorly," Bravo said.

"It hurts our fans when we don't win games - not only losing games but the way we lose at times."

Christmas Day was spent watching the inspirational film of South Africa's 1995 rugby World Cup victory, Invictus, bonding and exchanging fun presents.

"I give players different roles. I try to bring something different to see if that can bring the team more together. And we are going to fight every game," Bravo said.

It worked at Eden Park, although that shouldn't disguise batting shortcomings against the swinging ball. Still, Bravo looks the sort to inspire his team, for whom this series is a timely shakedown ahead of the World Cup in Australasia in 14 months. New Zealand's key issue is fixing their batting - and the wides. They got into a mess early at Eden Park and, with the West Indies' bowling demanding and fielding enthusiastic, couldn't find an escape route. The bowlers delivered 14 wides in just 27.3 overs, which is simply unacceptable.

McLean Park is invariably full of runs. The boundaries are short square, therefore favouring batsmen who cut, pull and sweep adroitly, and it takes a long blow to clear the rope down the ground. New Zealand and England have twice played out ties there, 237 apiece in 1997 and 340 each in 2008. The West Indies have lost all three ODIs there.

"We've got to make sure we improve on our [Eden Park] performance," captain Brendon McCullum said. "We know their guys will take confidence out of that, even though they were not at their best."

New Zealand have won 21 of 37 ODIs in Napier, but only one of the last four, and that against lightweight Zimbabwe. Given the state of the series, this would not be a good time for that run to continue tomorrow.

NZ v West Indies

2nd ODI, McLean Park, Napier, 2pm tomorrow

New Zealand: (from) Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne.

West Indies: (from) Dwayne Bravo (c), Johnson Charles, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy, Nikita Miller, Jason Holder, Tino Best, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Chadwick Walton.

Forecast/pitch: The weather report is gloomy. Some bright spots but showers are expected during the day, and light winds. A high of 24C. The pitch is invariably a belter, piles of runs, and short square boundaries to tempt the back-foot batsmen.

Key players:

New Zealand: The hosts need more runs and so it is the leader of the run-making division, Ross Taylor. Run out early after a mixup with Kane Williamson, Taylor remains in royal form and the pitch should be full of runs.

West Indies: It has to be the skipper, Dwayne Bravo. He made an immediate impact with the ball at Eden Park, has brought the smiles back to his players' faces and his batting can be dangerous.

Stat: 58. The number of ODI matches between the two. The West Indies have won 29, New Zealand 21.

- NZ Herald

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