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Cricket World Cup 2019: 'Brathwaite Blitzkrieg' goes in vain as New Zealand clinch a thriller

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203   //    23 Jun 2019, 20:29 IST

New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson led from the front, in their triumph against the West Indies
New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson led from the front, in their triumph against the West Indies

Kane Williamson waltzed his way away from the pitch to congratulate his teammates while Carlos Brathwaite was on his knees, looking at the heavens. He had scored a century but the West Indies fell short by 5 runs at the Old Trafford, chasing a paltry 292 (in the context of the game with the way the West Indies batted) in the stipulated 50 overs, in Match Number 29, at the World Cup 2019.

Brathwaite was heartbroken even as the New Zealand players congratulated him for playing an innings of poise, providing entertainment to the spectators, keeping everyone interested in the game. To think about it, the West Indies lost the game with an over to spare! They lost the match in the 49th over. But they had lost the plot much earlier.

The West Indies batting story

After Chris Gayle holed out in the deep, Brathwaite was running out of partners. Struggling with a hamstring strain, Evin Lewis came to the batting crease and went in a flash for a duck. However, against the run of play, Kemar Roach kept Brathwaite good company. The pair kept rotating the strike and the scoreboard ticking. In came Sheldon Cottrell after Roach's dismissal. Cottrell's batting technique could not have caught anyone by surprise.

With West Indies needing 48 runs off 40 balls, James Neesham and Trent Boult tried to bounce a determined 'tail-ender' in Cottrell, who danced his way around the batting crease, swivelling and jumping to the off side - jumping not in joy but to at least delay a New Zealand win which once seemed a fading dream when the 'universe boss' Chris Gayle and Hetmyer had stitched a partnership after the initial jolt they suffered. But when Cottrell was cleaned up and sent back to the pavilion, even that glimmer of hope that had returned, went along with him.

Chris Gayle played a solid knock in the match keeping the West Indies hopes alive
Chris Gayle played a solid knock in the match keeping the West Indies hopes alive

Earlier, West Indies lost their way in the middle overs when Lockie Ferguson struck twice, a period when they lost 5 wickets for 22 runs. In the commentary box, Ian Bishop pointed out that neither the West Indies coaching staff nor the 'outsmen' (the West Indies batsmen got themselves out playing reckless shots) moved an inch from their seat hoping their team would get close to the target.

While this might have allowed Brathwaite to hit a ton, West Indies actually needed some sensible batting with someone who could bat right through. It was an irony that by comparison, after the first 25 overs, the West Indies were ‘home-runs’ ahead of New Zealand but had lost wickets, one too many.

Trent Boult wreaked havoc as the West Indies' run chase was on the rocks, at the start of their innings
Trent Boult wreaked havoc as the West Indies' run chase was on the rocks, at the start of their innings

There was one man who had other ideas. Carlos Brathwaite had to play a blinder of an innings if the West Indies were to dream of a win. Even a repeat of his scintillating hitting four years ago at the T20 final in 2016 would not have been enough. However, this time, a more spectacular and truly breathtaking power play, his innings of 101 off 82 deliveries, punctuated by 9 boundaries and 5 sixes helped him only score his maiden World Cup hundred, and not win the match for his side.

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It took his team tantalisingly close to the target. But for Boult's athleticism and sharp catching, Brathwaite would have pulled it off. He was the last man to be dismissed as he was caught in the deep by Boult, who just managed to stop himself from stepping on the boundary rope, much to the dismay of the Caribbean fans.

So much for West Indies batting. What did New Zealand do though? Batting first, they put 291/8 on the board, riding on their captain Kane Williamson's century, ably supported by Ross Taylor's 69. For the West Indies, Sheldon Cottrell shined with the ball, bagging 4 wickets while Brathwaite picked up 2.

It is a match to remember. The five runs that separated the two teams were no runs but nerves; was not a victory margin but a statement of proof, of how exciting the game can get, and how fortune, at times, favours patience and cautious approach. If the West Indies had 15 wickets in hand, perhaps, they would have beaten their opponents, edging them in a tough contest.

A disappointing end to the Brathwaite fairy tale, who played the innings of his life
A disappointing end to the Brathwaite fairy tale, who played the innings of his life

Whenever they needed wickets in hand, the West Indies batsmen threw their wickets away. When there were deliveries remaining to be played, all of them were back in the hut. Some teams face deliveries they cannot play, others have batsmen that cannot score. The West Indies batting unravelled when their batsmen got themselves out. They played as if it was their primary duty to go to back to the pavilion adding burden to the middle order only to curb their natural hitting instinct and play out the overs so that they could achieve the target.

For New Zealand, Boult and Ferguson dismissed 7 West Indies batsmen. Now, Jason Holder and his team can only hope for the best when they take on India, next. No matter how they play hereafter, this encounter will be etched in the memory of the truly passionate cricket fan.

Also see – Australia vs England head to head stats

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