Up and down Windies

Hitting-Out-West Indies have well and truly brought joy and hurt at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. And there are also a lot of burning eyes.

From the defeat against Ireland in their opening Pool B match to the successive wins over Pakistan and Zimbabwe and the ball-beating they received from South Africa in that record total of 408 for five and a demoralising defeat by 257 runs at Sydney Cricket Ground today, fans have been left with mixed feelings.

There was a measure of happiness with the return to form of Chris Gayle in his swashbuckling 215 against Zimbabwe as he became the first player to hit a double-century in World Cup history in a total of 372 for two off 50 overs before West Indies won by 73 runs in Canberra on Tuesday.

But before it could be well digested, South Africa came with a slaughter.

Watching international cricket during the night (Eastern Caribbean time), whether from early or late, is a challenge. Then as a West Indian, don’t talk about having to endure ball-beating as exhibited by A.B. de Villiers in his 162 not out.

“Licks like peas. I can’t sleep,” Mike Worrell, the former Barbados and West Indies “B” team wicket-keeper/batsman said in a text message to yours truly this morning at 3:22.

Worrell went further in another message by the end of the match.

“They treated us worse than we treated Zimbabwe. Pathetic. With all the hype from the last game, I kept telling the guys at work not to expect too much but I did not expect what happened last night. If the West Indies team was a child, South Africa would be in jail all like now for child abuse,” Worrell stated.

Yet, when Gayle’s seemingly gentle off-spin removed Faf du Plessis (62) and Hashim Amla (65) in the space of three deliveries in the 30th over to leave South Africa on 146 for three after they had won the toss, even the biggest West Indies critic would have hardly predicted what was to follow.

Amazingly, 261 runs were scored off the last 20 overs as South Africa rushed to a World Cup record total with captain de Villiers’ knock lasting only 66 balls. It included 17 fours and eight sixes.

That West Indies could only score 151 in 33.1 overs, helped significantly by skipper Jason Holder’s maiden ODI half-century in the top-score of 56 off 48 balls with three fours and four sixes at No. 9, thus recording the joint-worst defeat in World Cups, was more than hurtful.

Holder must have had a sleepless night. At the age of 23, he is the youngest ever West Indies captain, having taken over for the recent ODI series against South Africa in South Africa.

To his credit, he has been open-minded and is prepared to put himself in the firing line. But his role as a “death” bowler has often been questioned by those who have followed his career closely, with some arguing that he searches for length balls much to his undoing.

After sharing the new ball with Jerome Taylor and conceding only nine runs off five overs including two maidens while picking a wicket in his first spell, Holder’s final figures of one for 104 off ten overs reflected a nightmare.

A fourth wicket partnership of 134 in 12.3 overs between Rilee Rossouw (61 off 39 balls with six fours and one six) and de Villiers was the start of the onslaught. It was noted that West Indies managed to get in only 12 dot balls during the stand including none in the Powerplay which cost 72 runs.

And what really went so wrong after the 47th over when the score was 330 for five with de Villers on 95?

The report on Cricinfo painted a very vivid picture of the last three overs of the South Africa innings and part of it is worth repeating.

“In a complete meltdown, he [Holder] bowled length deliveries, two no-balls and went for 34 runs in the 48th over. The intimidation was well justified. De Villiers, though, was just having fun: going down the ground, going over fine leg, reversing over third man deliveries that were pitched in almost identical spots.

“Andre Russell got lucky in the next over as he bowled the first three deliveries to Farhaan Behardien, for only nine runs. Holder –– poor Holder –– again started the last over to de Villiers. He kept feeding that driving slot, and de Villiers kept hurting him for 30 more in that over. He had brought his 100 off the 52nd ball he faced, two behind the World Cup record held by Kevin O’Brien, but reached his 150 off the 64th ball he faced. And then celebrated with back-to-back sixes to end the innings. Holder had now conceded 104, fifth-worst overall, and the worst ten-over analysis in World Cups.”

Andre Russell was also on the receiving end of the carnage inflicted today by the Proteas.
Andre Russell was also on the receiving end of the carnage inflicted today by the Proteas.

One really felt sorry for Holder. Now, when he and the team management review the overall figures, they need to ask some searching questions in relation to the bowling changes and field setting. Furthermore, why did Gayle only bowl four overs despite taking two for 21?

Even the approach of the West Indies batting left a lot to be desired. On the heels of Gayle’s double-century and Marlon Samuels’ unbeaten 133 against Zimbabwe, it was most disappointing the manner in which both were dismissed by pacer Kyle Abbott.

Surely, there should have been awareness by the West Indies to bat the full 50 overs or very close to, since Net Run Rate could be a determining factor in reaching the quarter-finals.

West Indies’ next match against title holders India, who top the standings, is expected to be another stern test and while they will be favoured to beat the United Arab Emirates, it looks like they will have to depend on the results of some of the remaining matches with the “ifs” and “buts” playing a big part.

Turning to the the regional arena, title holders Barbados Pride must be bitterly disappointed with their four-wicket loss to Guyana Jaguars in the top-of-the-table seventh round clash at Kensington Oval.

While skipper Kraigg Brathwaite must be complimented for scoring a century in both innings (102 and 112), thus joining former captain Ryan Hinds as the second Barbadian achieve the feat in a regional first-class match and the first to do so in the Championship at Kensington, the slow batting of the side was a major factor in the defeat.

On the opening day after they were sent in, Barbados wasted a great opportunity to gain three batting points with strange tactics. Helped by a third wicket partnership of 140 in 52.3 overs between Brathwaite and Shai Hope (69), they reached 243 for four by the 88th over after both fell in quick succession.

Barbados then needed 57 more runs from 22.4 overs to ensure at least three batting points but opted to send in a nightwatchman in Jomel Warrican, who faced 31 balls without scoring by the close, while his partner Roston Chase was unbeaten on eight off 54 deliveries as they went to stumps on 258 for five off 104 overs.

By the end of the 110th over when points are awarded for batting and bowling in the first innings only, Barbados were 264 for six before being bowled out for 312 in 130.4 overs.

And after gaining a 91-run first innings lead, no innovation was shown in the second innings with the batting order in an attempt to score quickly and give Guyana a target virtually beyond their reach.

While there was a late rush to accelerate the scoring, too much time had been wasted as they declared on 241 for six late on the third day, setting Guyana 333 to win.

Guyana resumed the last day on 41 without loss and it was still baffling that from early, Barbados went on the defensive. They seemingly had no answers as the experienced pair of Narsingh Deonarine (90) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (41) smartly added 144 in 32.3 overs for the fourth wicket, and again played into the hands of the Guyanese.

The belated taking of the second new ball with the score 309 for six after 89 overs and the failure to use their most experienced bowler in pacer Tino Best after lunch and worst yet not until the second new ball were among the mind-boggling tactics.

Now with three rounds of matches remaining, it is almost certain that front-runners Guyana with 107 points –– 25 ahead of second-placed Barbados –– will capture the title.

Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.

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