West Indies fall just short in thriller against New Zealand


(Online Sports Desk)

Carlos Brathwaite took West Indies to within five runs of an astonishing triumph over New Zealand in a thrilling World Cup match at Old Trafford – but was caught as he went for the six his side needed to win.

Chasing 292 for victory, West Indies had been reduced to 164-7 and needed 33 runs from the final 18 balls to seal an unlikely success.

Brathwaite struck three huge sixes off Matt Henry in the 48th over and top edged a four, taking the required target to eight from 12 balls.

He reached a sensational century with six runs needed but, as he went for one last boundary, he was caught by Trent Boult to end West Indies’ innings in a heartbreaking finish.

Brathwaite slumped to his knees as he saw Boult take the catch on the long-on boundary, extinguishing West Indies’ hopes of victory.

He was quickly consoled by the New Zealand fielders and was given a lengthy standing ovation by the packed crowd.

Ultimately, though, the loss means West Indies are all but out of the World Cup, with New Zealand topping the table and now set for a semi-final place.

New Zealand’s victory was built on a peerless 148 from captain Kane Williamson, who rescued his side after they lost two wickets in the opening over.

That West Indies came so close to victory is a credit to Brathwaite, who arrived at the crease with his side mid-collapse and attempting to weather a storm from the New Zealand pace bowlers.

Slowly, he chipped away at the total – first with Kemar Roach in a 47-run stand, then again with number 10 Sheldon Cottrell, with the pair putting on 34 runs in 41 balls.

New Zealand put the squeeze on, with Boult conceding just one run from the 44th over, before Cottrell was bowled by Lockie Ferguson with 47 needed from 36 balls.

However, Williamson was forced to turn to the expensive Henry with three overs left and Brathwaite took full advantage.

The second ball of Henry’s over went for six, as did the third. The fourth was smashed over deep cover for yet another maximum. Then a slice of luck for Brathwaite, miscuing a pull over wicketkeeper Tom Latham’s head to take 25 runs from the over.

It fell to Jimmy Neesham, also expensive, to bowl the next over. Brathwaite saw out three dots before heaving away two to get to his century, which was celebrated with a pump of the fist and a bat raise. He was not done yet.

However, Brathwaite tried to hit the final ball of the over for six to secure victory – and he was brilliantly caught by Boult, running to his right, with his feet landing just inches from the rope as he stepped backwards to regain his balance.

In a game of fine margins, New Zealand just, somehow, edged it.

West Indies had earlier lost five wickets for 22 runs in 29 balls in a collapse that set up a barnstorming finish.

This was not an easy pitch to score on – not that you would have known, given the breathtaking aggression that Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer played with up front.

Boult, who bowled brilliantly to finish with 4-30, did the early damage, inducing Shai Hope to drag a wide ball onto his stumps before Nicholas Pooran miscued a short ball through to the keeper. But Gayle and Hetmyer latched on to anything short – of which there was plenty from the New Zealand seamers.

Their 122-run partnership saw sixes thrashed into the crowd, fours pulled through mid-wicket and very few singles. They rode their luck, particularly Gayle, who was dropped on 15 at long-on, then again on 58 and 59.

New Zealand had lost their lines before Ferguson struck. Ferguson, a tall, rhythmical bowler who regularly exceeds 90mph, bamboozled Hetmyer (56) with a slower ball that splattered the stumps, and Jason Holder edged the next ball behind.

However, Gayle remained. While he is almost immobile in the field and quick singles are increasingly rare, there are few that have Gayle’s power and the easy ability to clear the ropes. But going for one last big hit off Colin de Grandhomme’s medium pace was his downfall as he was well caught on the boundary by Boult for 87.

Ultimately, it was an innings symptomatic of West Indies’ performances in this World Cup – exciting in parts but just not consistent enough.

It feels strange that Williamson’s century – his second of this World Cup – will be almost a footnote in the game.

Arriving at the crease with his side in trouble, having lost Martin Guptill lbw to the first ball of the day, he saw Colin Munro dismissed four balls later for a duck and had to see off some fine pace bowling from Cottrell and Roach.

Williamson’s strength is his ability to read the game. He played carefully at first, reining himself in. As he passed 50, he began to quicken, exploiting the gaps in the field. He reached his century and then cut loose, thrashing back-to-back fours off Holder.

He was well supported by Ross Taylor, who hit 69, but once Williamson fell, caught trying to hook a short ball, New Zealand stuttered.

Limited by Cottrell – who took 4-56, effected a run out and took two catches in the field – they struggled to hit boundaries in the final overs of the match and finished with a total that proved to be enough. Just.

Scores: New Zealand 291-8 (50 overs): Williamson 148, Taylor 69, Cottrell 4-56.    West Indies 286 (49 overs): Brathwaite 101, Gayle 87, Hetmyer 56, Boult 4-30