This match was a curious one to predict. New Zealand were unbeaten while West Indies were probably out of the tournament and yet, in their warm-up match, West Indies won easily. So when West Indies took 2 wickets in the first over, both first ball ducks, it looked like West Indies would win easily. All they had to do was to get rid of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. Easier said than done, though, as the two stalwarts combined for a partnership of 160 runs across 34 overs that set up the match. After Taylor was out for 69 off 95, Kane Williamson really started lifting his scoring rate, and he ended up with 148 off 154, close enough to a run a ball, and, yet again, it was not out.
8/291 always looked like too much, especially after West Indies lost 2 quick wickets of their own, but with Chris Gayle still there they had hope. When he added 122 runs in 16 overs with Shimron Hetmeyer, it looked like West Indies would win, just so long as they didn’t get bowled out, then they conspired to do exactly that, as they lost 5 quick wickets to plummet to 7/164, with Carlos Braithwaite the last of the batsmen to score the last 128 runs off 23 overs. The run rate wasn’t the major problem – it was the wickets, and how bad the last 3 were at batting. But Braithwaite found a way to do it, adding 47 with Kemar Roach, 34 with Sheldon Cottrell and then 41 in 4 overs with Oshane Thomas, who contributed 0 himself.
With 3 overs to go, West Indies needed 33 runs for victory, but then Braithwaite cut it down to 8 runs off 2 overs with a huge over, and he had the strike. But he could manage just 2 runs off the first 5 deliveries, so went for a 6 to win the match. It carried and carried and carried and looked like being a 6, only Trent Boult got in the way and he hung on to the catch and New Zealand had won by 5 runs! In fairness, they still only needed 6 off 7 balls, so he didn’t need to go for the shot, and could have hit it along the ground for a 3, to need 3 off 6, but he didn’t, and what looked like being the glorious winning runs ended up being the awful bitter pill of defeat.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) We can have close matches after all
Before this, New Zealand vs South Africa was the only match that went down to the final over, and New Zealand vs Bangladesh was the only other one that was in any danger of going the other way, but then, in the space of 3 hours, we had two nail biters. This one was closer than the India vs Afghanistan match, but both went down to the wire. This was the closest match of the World Cup so far: India vs Afghanistan was 2nd. New Zealand have won 3 of the 4 closest matches.
(2) Carlos Braithwaite does have potential
“Remember the name” is a bit of a meme since he did so little from that famous come from behind victory in the World T20 until now, but in this innings he showed he still has it. West Indies had gone in with an extra bowler so had an extra long tail, but he sure did get them close. They were calculated risks.
(3) Playing an extra bowler is risky
It’s okay if you bowl them out for 100 but when you concede 291 you find yourself with a tail starting at 8 and you leave it up to a bowling all-rounder to get all the runs.
(4) Kane Williamson is like wow
He’s right up there with Shakib al Hasan for player of the tournament now, possibly along with David Warner, Mohammad Amir and Jofra Archer as well. His batting average is now around 400 too, as he has only been out once. He was good before this but now he’s just ridiculous, as for the second game in a row he took New Zealand from losing badly to winning narrowly.
(5) Ross Taylor is a good right hand man
The Williamson/Taylor show has been on point for much of this World Cup and it just keeps continuing. Lose early wickets? Don’t worry because these two aren’t getting out. Bowling on top? Don’t care. Run rate low? Doesn’t matter. Against a superior side? Nothing matters while these two are at the crease. They just drop anchor and nothing can dislodge them until the match is well and truly won.