WI go down

Kieran Powell was in superlative touch but cramp robbed West Indies of his presence in the middle.
Kieran Powell was in superlative touch but cramp robbed West Indies of his presence in the middle.

A pluperfect pitch made for a thrilling run feast today as the Prime Minister’s XI defeated West Indies by 23 runs at the Manuka Oval.

The hosts benefited from some loose early bowling from fast bowler Tino Best and captain Darren Sammy and motored to 333 for six. In reply a classy half-century from opener Kieran Powell, one of great measure from Ramnaresh Sarwan and another of furious intent from Andre Russell, brought the West Indies close but still short at 310 all out though losing only nine wickets.

James Faulkner’s composure with the ball followed up an attractive batting effort to deliver the close 23-run victory. His wickets (4 for 54) closed out a chase threatened at the start by Powell and Russell at the end.

Alex Doolan’s fluent 87 in 98 balls had been the most substantial of a series of handy scores by the hosts to ensure their bounteous tally, Usman Khawaja also showing himself to be in decent touch, after the local batsman Jono Dean had swung lustily from his first ball.

Apart from the Man of the Match Faulkner, Fawad Ahmed’s leg breaks and the finger spin of Ashton Turner were important through the middle of the innings, though the PM’s XI did not help their cause with some indifferent fielding for long tracts of the pursuit. Powell’s innings was ended by cramp and Russell also appeared to pick up a limp before the end of his flashy contribution, leaving the visiting captain with some issues at hand before the first ODI against Australia on Friday.

If the West Indian bowlers had shown evidence of some cobwebs in the afternoon, the batsmen were more fluent in search of their distant target. As a crowd of 9 583 basked in Manuka’s new floodlights, Powell and Johnson Charles enjoyed the fast medium of Alister McDermott in particular, and it was a surprise when a too-sharp single to Khawaja had Charles (34 in 32 balls) run out with the score at 83 inside 12 overs.

Powell’s innings (92 in 97 balls) was impressively sure-footed until he pulled up dramatically with apparent cramp in a calf, the tourists reasoning it better that he seek the refuge of the dressing room rather than trying to bat on without a runner. This offered the PM’s XI a way of disrupting the West Indian innings, and the spin bowlers Ahmed and Turner succeeded in restricting the flow of runs, though dropped catches prevented them from doing full justice to their figures.

Playing his first match in West Indian colours since 2011, Sarwan (63 in 83 balls) was conservative as wickets fell around him. Darren Bravo (6) was outsmarted by Ahmed and pouched in the deep, Dwayne Bravo (18) fooled by a back of the hand slower ball from Faulkner and bowled, before Kieron Pollard (2) and Sammy (3) both miscued attempts to clear the boundary.

Russell (54 in 24 balls) showed better touch, and kept his side in touch with a flurry of hits – including one held expertly by a spectator clad in orange at deep midwicket – that served also to disfigure Turner’s analysis. When Sarwan departed to another Faulkner slower ball, this time taken at long on, Russell was on his own, and the chase petered out as the PM’s XI steadied in the field after their earlier profligacy.

Ricky Ponting’s success at the toss had given the hosts first use of a Manuka surface almost totally void of assistance for the fast bowlers in the way of either bounce or movement. Against touring pace men finding their range after the long journey from the Caribbean, Dean (51 in 40 balls) took appropriate advantage with a rollicking innings that left Khawaja quite happy to ride in his partner’s slipstream.

Dean’s departure when he failed to clear long-off brought Doolan to the middle, and with Khawaja he consolidated the rapid start, the rate slackening only marginally when Narine’s crafty spin was introduced to the bowling attack. Both batsmen played attractively without straining for effect, looking neat and compact in the manner of the prospective Test batsmen that they have been considered for most of this summer.

There was a brief wobble in the innings when, after Khawaja’s (69 in 81 balls) departure, Ponting (15) and Handscomb (0) fell in consecutive balls to Narine, who earned his wickets while twirling down his variations with notable accuracy. But Doolan (87 in 98 balls) hung around until the tally was well past 250, perishing to an outstanding snare by Charles at square leg, before Brad Haddin (39 in 28 balls) and Faulkner (44 in 28 balls) delivered punchy cameos to vault their side comfortably beyond 300, and ultimately the reach of the tourists.

Narine was the best of the West Indies’ bowlers with 2 for 32 in his 10 overs; Pollard had 2 for 37 in 7 overs; Best had 1 for 84 in 10 overs; Bravo 1 for 75 in 10 overs and Sammy none for 72 runs in 9 overs.††

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