The road to recognition has been a long one for Ashley Nurse. The offspinning Barbadian made his List A debut nine years ago, played his maiden Twenty20 international more than five years ago, but has since played only three more T20Is – without taking a wicket. He had been included in three one-day international squads before finally making his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in Harare. Now that the chance has come again, he has taken it, literally and figuratively, with both hands, picking up three wickets – the first of which was caught and bowled – to decisively turn this match in West Indies’ favour.
“This is my third tour, but until now I’ve not got a game,” Nurse said. “I’ve been on the sidelines watching the guys win sometimes, watching the guys lose sometimes, and it can be a bit frustrating. I thank God for the opportunity and I’m glad I’ve taken the opportunity now.”
The delivery and the dismissal that brought Nurse his maiden ODI wicket may have been soft, Upul Tharanga misreading the pace of a long-hop and swiping far too early into a pull, but Nurse’s celebration was anything but. “I guess you could say it all came down to me,” Nurse said. “All I was telling myself is ‘you have to hold on to this one’. It was nice to induce the chance and then take it myself. I did everything to get that wicket!”
He had taken a much sharper chance off Jason Holder’s bowling earlier in the innings, holding a flashing edge off Kusal Mendis’ bat with two hands reverse cupped in front of his face at second slip. That was Holder’s second wicket, and with it Sri Lanka were reduced to a decidedly rickety 16 for 3 in a chase that, 15 minutes earlier, had seemed almost a formality after West Indies were bowled out for 227 in the 50th over.
“It was not an ideal score, but once we got a few wickets with the new ball, we knew we could get the job done,” Nurse said. “We thought we were 20 runs short, but having said that, as a bowling unit you’ve got to go out and just try to defend anything that the batsmen give us to work with.”
Nurse was one of three debutants in West Indies’ side for their first match of the tri-series, and the other two did not do too badly either. Shai Hope kept his side ticking along through the middle overs with a sedate 47, while Rovman Powell pressed the accelerator later on with a 29-ball 44 that included three crisp sixes.
“For me, being a debutant you have nothing to lose. You just have to go out and give it your all. And I think all the guys had that attitude today. We’re a young team. We have nothing to lose, so we just go out and play fearless cricket. And congrats to the other guys; Shai batted really well, Rovman batted superbly as well. It was a really commendable performance from the guys.”
The performance was certainly appreciated by a modest but boisterous Harare crowd that made no secret of their support for West Indies. The Bob Marley songs that played repeatedly over the P.A. system during the breaks must also have helped the visitors feel a little more at home. And at the end of the game, Nurse, Hope, Powell and Carlos Brathwaite jogged across the sun-drenched ground from the West Indies dressing room to Castle Corner, where fans were still gathered, to personally thank them for the support.
“For sure, it was not a big crowd but we could hear them,” Nurse said. “After the game, the guys went over and basically just said ‘thank you’ to the spectators for the support. Can you guys [in the media] extend the thanks from all of us? I hope we get the same sort of support in Bulawayo.”
West Indies will be buoyed by this win, having lost the ODIs against Pakistan 3-0 last month before their remarkable Test comeback. Wins like these will help this new-look side creep up the ICC rankings from their current ninth position.
“Against Pakistan, we had a bit of a rough time in the one-day series, so it’s nice to bounce back here with a win,” Nurse said. “To get wins for West Indies is the main thing, whether we’re eighth or ninth in the rankings, if we win we can only go up from there. We don’t play cricket based on who’s in front of us or who’s ahead in the rankings. We just go out and play cricket, day after day, taking it one step at a time gaining those points that will push us up the rankings.”