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New Zealand v West Indies, Group B
Tony Cozier - 24 May 1999

WI back in businessm

It wasn't quite as comfortable as it appeared but the West Indies victory over New Zealand by seven wickets with 5.4 overs to spare here yesterday was efficiently achieved and vitally important.

It was their second win in three matches, the New Zealanders' first loss in the preliminary group, leaving the two tied on four points behind the powerful Pakistanis with their 100 per cent record and six points.

The three top teams in the group will advance into the second round, to Super Sixes, and average run rate will likely be needed to separate those tied on points.

The West Indies have sneaked ahead of New Zealand on run rate (0.42 to 0.08) with Australia fourth at a negative rate of -0.05.

The West Indies remaining matches are against Scotland in Leicester on Thursday and Australia at Manchester on Sunday. New Zealand still have Pakistan and Scotland and Australia's only match apart from the West Indies is against lowly Bangladesh on Thursday.

Logically, it amounts to a showdown for the West Indies in their last match against Australia. Yesterday's triumph was an encouraging preview.

Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose set it up with typically high quality bowling that made the most of the advantage of the toss and undermined New Zealand's top order. Reon King, Merv Dillon and Phil Simmons ensured they would not wriggle out of the early grip as Pakistan and Bangladesh had been allowed to in the previous matches.

Encouragingly, they were supported by sharp ground fielding with Jimmy Adams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul outstanding.

A total of 156 all out was clearly insufficient to seriously challenge the West Indies, especially as the sun emerged from its cover as they began their quest. The white ball didn't dart around as much as it had in the morning yet the dogged New Zealanders threatened to create the tension that has so often frozen the West Indies in the past, reducing them to 49 for two in the 21st over. It was as far as the worry got.

Brian Lara then entered, despatched his sixth ball off the miserly medium-pacer Gavin Larsen back overhead for six with a clean, free swing of the bat, and provided the positive momentum that left the result in no doubt with 36 off 54 balls.

While the captain was the spark the innings needed, the redoubtable Ridley Jacobs was the piston that kept the effort going from start to finish.

Readily adapting to the role of opening batsman and to the seamer-friendly environment, to neither of which he is accustomed, the left-handed Jacobs compiled an unbeaten 80 off 131 balls that followed his five wicket-keeper's catches-equalling a record for all One-day Internationals-and deservedly earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

Belated as his introduction was, aged 31, the West Indies have uncovered no more valuable cricketer since Lara himself first came into the team in 1990.

In keeping with the established practice in the conditions that have prevalied so far, Lara did not hesitate in deciding to bowl on winning the toss -and Walsh and Ambrose did not hesitate in asserting themselves. Ambrose went through his 10 overs without a break or without a worthwhile stroke played off them. He accounted for the dangerous Nathan Astle with the last ball of his first over, a sharp leg-cutter he just managed to touch.

While he probed away on a nagging length until his spell was done, wickets continued to fall at the opposite end.

Opener Matthew Horne spooned a catch to midon off Walsh, King, generating genuine pace after replacing Walsh, accounted for the left-handers Stephen Fleming, the captain, and Roger Twose, to catches snicked off the outside edge.

When Craig McMillan was out in similar fashion, caught behind off Simmons' late outswinger for 32 off 78 balls and Chris Cairns lobbed to Lara at mid-off from the last ball of Dillon's first over, New Zealand were 75 for six in the 32nd over. They would have been in danger of falling for the first double-figure total of the tournament but for the fact that their last five wickets managed 75 off the last 20 overs, exactly what their first five had raised from 30.

Wicket-keeper Adam Parore, who required 21 balls over his first run, scored 23 off his next 20 before he got a glove to an attempted pull off Dillon for another Jacobs catch.

The left-handed Chris Harris put on 50 for the seventh wicket with Parore, the best of the innings, and 25 for the ninth with Larsen.

Dillon collected four of the last five wickets, King and Simmons had two each but Walsh and Ambrose were the most significant bowlers.

The West Indies reply spluttered to get going before Lara arrived.

Sherwin Campbell was lbw on the backfoot to Dion Nash's inswinger and the left-handed Jimmy Adams caught behind off the left-arm Geoff Allott's late away movement. Campbell's 8 needed 32 balls, Adams' 3 took 29 and included a sharp chance to gully.

Lara's arrival immediately altered the tempo of the game and Jacobs, sensibly attempting nothing outside of his scope, was soon swept up in his slip stream.

Jacobs was 24 off 68 balls when Lara joined him. He remained while Lara left, foxed by Chris Harris' lack of pace to hoist a catch to mid-on. By the time Stuart Williams' edged four off Cairns formalised the result, he had added 56 off 63 balls with four fours alongside his earlier four and a joyous thump off long-on for six off Allott. If every one of his teammates commits themselves with Jacobs' resolve, the World Cup is not beyond the West Indies reach-and there were signs today that everyone will.

Source: The Express (Trinidad)