MANCHESTER, England (CMC) – A stunning maiden international hundred by Carlos Brathwaite just narrowly failed to get West Indies over the line as they suffered an agonising five-run defeat to New Zealand in a tantalising finish here yesterday, to all but end their hopes of progressing any further in the ICC World Cup.
In an innings which revived memories of his six-hitting feat which won West Indies the T20 World Cup in India three years ago, the broad-shouldered all-rounder smashed 101 off 82 deliveries to haul his side off the ropes at 167 for seven in the 27th over, and make them believe again in their pursuit of 292 for victory.
Opener Chris Gayle had earlier smashed 87 off 84 balls while fellow left-hander Shimron Hetmyer stroked 54 from 45 deliveries, before both fell in a devastating period for West Indies which saw five wickets tumble for 22 runs in the space of 29 balls.
Brathwaite, composed and determined from the first ball, then stepped up heroically, punching nine fours and five sixes, as he put on 47 for the eighth wicket with Kemar Roach (14), a further 34 for the ninth wicket with Sheldon Cottrell (15) and 41 for the final wicket with Oshane Thomas who failed to score.
The pivotal moment of the late stages came, however, with West Indies needing 33 runs from the last three overs. Brathwaite pummelled 25 runs from the 48th over from seamer Matt Henry – including three sixes – which left the Caribbean side with just eight runs to get from the final two overs.
At that point, a Windies victory appeared straightforward once Brathwaite remained on strike but seamer Jimmy Neesham produced a superb penultimate over which saw Brathwaite manage to scrape just two runs – off the fourth delivery – which carried him to three figures.
With six needed for victory, Brathwaite attempted to clear long-on with the final ball of the over but managed only to find Trent Boult on the ropes instead, crushing West Indies’ hopes of a much needed win.
Left-arm seamer Boult was the best bowler with four for 30 while Ferguson finished with three for 59.
The defeat left West Indies still languishing in seventh place in the standings on three points with one win and four defeats in six outings.
With three games remaining, West Indies’ hopes of a semi-final spot now lie in as much complicated maths as it does in empty optimism.
They can only end on a maximum nine points, and will now need help from unbeaten India who lie third on nine points, and tournament favourites England, who are fourth on eight points, in order to get into the top four.
In contrast, New Zealand moved back to the summit of the standings on 11 points, and have all but made certain of their spot in the semi-finals.
Left-arm speedster Sheldon Cottrell had earlier claimed a terrific four-wicket haul but was outdone by a magnificent hundred from captain Kane Williamson as New Zealand recovered from a rocky start to post a respectable 291 for eight off their 50 overs, after being asked to bat at Old Trafford.
Cottrell, who finished with four for 56 from his 10 overs, knocked over openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro both without scoring in the day’s first over, to leave the Black Caps stunned on seven for two.
But Williamson struck 148 off 154 balls to post his 13th One-Day International hundred while veteran Ross Taylor hit 69 off 95 deliveries, to ensure their side’s revival.
Cottrell gave the Windies a wonderful start when he produced a full-length ball to claim Guptill lbw courtesy of DRS off the first ball of the day, and then yorked Munro spectacularly with the fifth ball to put the Caribbean side on top.
Williamson and Taylor rebuilt the innings through a 160-run, third-wicket stand as the unbeaten Black Caps regained their composure and took control of the contest.
While Williamson struck 14 fours and a six, Taylor counted seven fours before failing to clear Jason Holder at mid-off and falling in the 35th over to Gayle’s part-time off-spin.
Williamson then anchored a fourth-wicket stand of 43 with Tom Latham (12) and a 41-run, fifth-wicket partnership with Jimmy Neesham whose 28 came from 23 deliveries, to keep the innings together.
Cottrell returned to claim Latham in the 42nd over before getting the prized wicket of Williamson in the 47th over, top-edging a skyer to wicketkeeper Shai Hope running around.
Tasked with a challenging but attainable run chase, West Indies had a nightmare start when Hope played on to Boult in the third over for one and Nicholas Pooran (1) top-edged an ill-advised hook at the same bowler, and was taken by wicketkeeper Latham in the seventh over.
Gayle belted eight fours and half-dozen sixes and Hetmyer, eight fours and a six, as they put on 122 for the third wicket to pull West Indies out of trouble at 20 for two.
Cruising towards victory on 142 without further loss, West Indies suffered a massive setback when Hetmyer was bowled by fast bowler Lockie Ferguson at the start of the 23rd over missing a pull at a slower ball, and Holder feathered a tentative push and was caught at the wicket off the very next delivery.
In sight of a 26th ODI hundred, Gayle then needlessly holed out in the deep off seamer Colin de Grandhomme at the end of the 24th over, as the wheels came off the innings.