By Dwight Frank – CMI’s Student
February 25th 2013: Don’t go by the seven-wicket victory margin. Don’t go by the one over left remaining in West Indies’ innings. This was a chase in which the pressure built, and was allowed to be built, gradually during a century opening partnership. Then came two wickets in three deliveries! More pressure. Then came the batting Powerplay and Ramnaresh Sarwan bolted away, finally, to his fifth ODI century, his highest ODI score and his first substantial knock after his comeback. Any remaining pressure was blasted away by Kieron Pollard. West Indies had the series, but Zimbabwe were worthy competitors following their surrender in the opening game.
They made their highest away total against West Indies and created chances in the field but lacked penetration in their attack. They were also robbed of Sarwan’s wicket when he was on 53. He was caught several inches short by a direct hit but umpire Peter Nero, instead of referring it to the third umpire, immediately shook his head when Zimbabwe appealed. West Indies needed 151 from 20 overs at that stage, and who knows what the wicket of a well-set Sarwan could have led to.
It was the lone, albeit significant, blemish for Sarwan in an innings where he exploited the batting Powerplay to race from a slow half-century to a breezy hundred. Sarwan and Kieran Powell had put on 111 at the top, but hadn’t attempted to dominate Zimbabwe, who squandered an early opportunity. In the fourth over, the debutant medium-pacer Tendai Chatara had Powell pushing uppishly for Vusi Sibanda to pull off a one-handed stunner at short extra cover. Replays, however, showed Chatara had overstepped.
Sarwan began in a blaze of boundaries, cutting, driving and pulling for fours but started finding the fielder far too often. Powell was a touch more aggressive but wasn’t far behind in hitting seemingly innocuous deliveries to the infield. However, there was hardly any bite in the Zimbabwe attack to tie them down for a prolonged stretch.
It was Powell who threw away another promising start, heaving at a Hamilton Masakadza delivery and edging it behind to depart for 57 off 81. Two balls later, Masakadza moved one away slightly to take Darren Bravo’s outside edge into the wicketkeeper’s gloves. The asking-rate was now approaching seven, and West Indies’ at times diffident start could have cost them.
Sarwan and Narsingh Deonarine managed just a boundary each till the onset of the batting Powerplay, by then the asking-rate was within touching distance of eight. Sarwan was on 68 off 103, having gone 80 deliveries without hitting a boundary during the middle overs.
In the 37th over, he slammed Kyle Jarvis through cover and point for fours. In the 38th, he lifted Chatara down the ground and over extra cover for successive boundaries. In the 40th, he hit Jarvis for a one-handed straight six, and off the next ball, reached his century. He had taken 32 off his last 15 deliveries, and West Indies had taken 46 off the batting Powerplay. Zimbabwe, tied down by Sunil Narine, had managed 22 off theirs.
Deonarine played an important knock of 42 off 49, turning the strike over repeatedly, but when he was run out by a direct hit, West Indies still needed 55 off 40. Enter Pollard. Exit Zimbabwe. Pollard rained fours and sixes, his power punishing anything too full or too short. He needed just 20 deliveries to race to 41, with Sarwan fittingly hitting the winning single.
Zimbabwe will no doubt be gutted with the Sarwan run-out that wasn’t given, especially after their batting effort. They had conceded 337 and were reduced to 34 for 4 on Friday in their first international game in five months, but two days later, three of the top five made fifties.
Like in the first match, Craig Ervine was at the forefront of a recovery and, unlike in the first match, he ensured he carried on long enough to make a significant difference. Had Dwayne Bravo not struck at crucial moments on his way to a career-best 6 for 43, his side would have had a chase much closer to 300 on their hands.
In his first over, he removed the in-form Vusi Sibanda and the captain Brendan Taylor in the space of three deliveries to convert a solid 76 for 1 into a shaky 76 for 3. Sibanda had vindicated his captain’s decision to bat and had looked in little trouble as he drove, cut, pulled and swept his way to a breezy fifty.
Ervine and Masakadza responded with a 110-run fourth-wicket partnership. Ervine paddled Dwayne Bravo and swept Narine for fours. Masakadza, nowhere close to Ervine in fluency, soldiered on at the other end, heaving Pollard and Andre Russell for a six each.
Following an unproductive batting Powerplay, Masakadza had another heave and the top-edge landed in the hands of a running Narine at third man. Zimbabwe were 194 for 4 after 42 overs, and needed someone to kick start the final charge.
Malcolm Waller provided that boost in a cameo that altered the momentum of the innings. In an eventful 43rd over from Kemar Roach, Waller pulled and drove for a six and a four before being yorked. Roach was dumbfounded when no-ball was signalled, and it turned out that Tino Best’s carelessness had made it one man too many outside the inner circle. Roach went harder for another yorker next ball, and Waller flicked the resultant full toss off his pads over short fine leg for six more. Zimbabwe managed 79 off the final eight overs, but West Indies won both the batting Powerplays, and they had Pollard for later.