AUCKLAND, New Zealand – West Indies captain Kieron Pollard defied a devastating spell from Lockie Ferguson to hit a career-best, unbeaten 75, but poor bowling led to a five-wicket defeat for his side under the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern Method in the rain-marred first Twenty20 International against New Zealand on Friday.
Pollard dragged the Windies back into contention with an explosive 37-ball innings, after they were put into bat and crumbled to 59 for five in the sixth over.
The visitors’ top-order batting was dismantled by aggressive bowling on a helpful Eden Park pitch from Ferguson, whose five for 21 from his allotted four overs was a career-best and made him a shoo-in for the Player-of-the-Match award.
Pollard struck four fours and eight sixes to dominate a sixth-wicket stand of 84 with Fabian Allen, and helped West Indies raise the same number of runs in the final six overs to finish with a competitive 180 for seven, after a third rain delay in their innings reduced the match to 16 overs-a-side.
But the Windies’ raggedy bowling let their captain down, and Jimmy Neesham, not out on 48 from 24 balls, and fellow left-hander Devon Conway, 41 off 29 balls, led steady, if not spectacular batting to guide the New Zealanders through a successful chase of a DLS-revised target of 176.
Sadly, Pollard, bowling his uncomplicated medium-pace, was the grieving bowler, when left-hander Mitchell Santner swung to wide long-on for the last of his three sixes in 31 not out that formalised the result for the Blackcaps with four balls remaining.
The victory meant the Caribbean side trail 0-1 in the three-match series, which concludes with back-to-back matches this coming Sunday and Monday at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
The result also condemned the visitors to their eighth defeat in nine bilateral T20Is in New Zealand and gave the home team only their second T20I win at this venue in their last 11 matches here.
Andre Fletcher played with typical enterprise and with Brandon King gave West Indies a bright start, sharing 58 for the first wicket.
But the Windies lost five wickets for one run in the space of 12 balls between the fourth and sixth overs to disrupt the flow of their batting.
Fletcher was beaten for pace and bowled for 34 with Ferguson’s second delivery in the fourth over and left-hander Shimron Hetmyer was caught behind for a four-ball duck from an inside-edge, trying to make room to hit the fast bowler’s sixth delivery into the off-side.
Next over, King was caught on the third man boundary for 13, slicing a loose drive at a wide delivery from New Zealand captain Tim Southee, and three balls later, Rovman Powell was caught at deep fine leg for a duck from a top-edged hook at a short ball from the same bowler.
West Indies were in further trouble, when Nicholas Pooran played across a low full toss from Ferguson and was lbw for one, a decision that was confirmed by TV replays after the batsman referred it to the video umpire.
At this stage, Pollard was yet to face a delivery and had to endure a barrage of short balls from Ferguson before getting a couple boundaries off Southee in the seventh over to settle things down.
Pollard was dubiously adjudged lbw on 12 to Hamish Bennett, a decision that was reversed fortunately for the Windies, and his immediate response was a lofted drive for six off the next ball from the pacer.
Pollard and Allen inched the Caribbean side to 96 for five after 10 overs, when the umpires ushered the players off the field for a rain delay that lasted almost half-hour and reduced the overs.
The resumption was the signal for Pollard to cut loose and he dished out special treatment to Neesham in the 12th over, crashing the first four deliveries for six, six, four and six, mostly with leg-side strokes.
In between, Allen got his too, before he was caught behind for 30 from a top-edged pull at a short ball from Ferguson in the 14th over, and three balls later, Keemo Paul was caught behind for a duck, gloving a short ball to give the fast bowler his final scalp.
West Indies were 146 for seven with 12 balls remaining and Pollard unleashed another assault in the closing overs to swell his side’s total.
Sheldon Cottrell gave the Windies an early breakthrough, when he had Martin Guptill caught behind from a top-edged cut with the fourth ball of the New Zealanders’ innings.
But the visitors’ bowling was untidy, and Tim Seifert and Glenn Phillips indulged themselves before pacer Oshane Thomas removed them in successive overs and finished with two for 23 from three overs, making him the most successful West Indies bowler.
Thomas had Seifert caught at mid-on for 17 in the fourth over and bowled Phillips for 22 off the inside edge in the sixth over before Ross Taylor was run out by a direct hit at the striker’s end for a four-ball duck by an alert Allen in the seventh over, sinking the Blackcaps to 63 for four.
But Pollard could find no consistency from his bowlers and Neesham joined international newcomer Conway to put on a crucial 77 for the fifth wicket that put New Zealand on track for victory.
When Pollard had Conway caught at short third man from a slower delivery, the Blackcaps needed 37 from 22 balls, and Santner joined Neesham to bring it home. (CMC)