West Indies 131-2 (Simmons 63no) beat
Zimbabwe 130-8 (Narine 2-17) by 8 wickets
First T20 International, North Sound, Antigua
Report by Daniel Grummitt
A change of scene didn’t bring about any change in luck for Zimbabwe as they were handed their fourth straight defeat on their tour of the Caribbean. This time the West Indies, led by Lendl Simmons, and with supporting roles from Tino Best, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine, triumphed by eight wickets in the first Twenty20 in Antigua.
The match was over almost before it had begun as Zimbabwe lost their three best batsmen inside the first five overs. After that it was always a case of damage limitation and the margin of defeat rather than any realistic chance of victory for the tourists. Malcolm Waller and Craig Ervine did their best in that regard, as did Chris Mpofu later on, but Simmons sealed victory for the T20 world champions with his sixth six and with almost four overs to spare in their run chase.
Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor had maintained his 100 per cent toss record at the start of the day, but his decision to bat was soon in tatters as Vusi Sibanda, Taylor himself and Hamilton Masakadza all departed in the space of 12 deliveries. Sibanda was first to go, slashing an erratic but pacy Tino Best to third man, while Taylor continued his miserable run with the bat by edging an attempted reverse sweep to Denesh Ramdin third ball. Masakadza completed Zimbabwe’s horror run in Best’s next over when he was quite brilliantly caught by a leaping Kieron Pollard at backward point.
Waller and Ervine then began the increasingly familiar task of rebuilding. The pair added 60 in a little more than 10 overs before Ervine was stumped charging at Narine for 34. His dismissal appeared merely to unshackle his partner Waller, who unleashed a series of pleasing boundaries - including a lofted drive over mid-off - in the proceeding overs. Whilst he was going, 150 looked a feasible score for Zimbabwe, but unfortunately his innings came to an end one short of a well-deserved fifty when he played across a quicker ball from Narine.
Narine was at his typical accurate and threatening self throughout his four overs and was rewarded with two important wickets, but it is the bowling of Best that perhaps warrants more discussion. He was back to his scattergun approach after showing better control during the ODIs, but remarkably picked up three wickets, through a combination of searing pace and the element of surprise caused by his waywardness. On another day, against a better team, he could have conceded plenty. Today he picked up three wickets, the last of which was that of Chamu Chibhabha, beaten for pace as Zimbabwe’s innings ended with a whimper.
Chasing 131 was never going to test this lengthy and powerful West Indian batting line-up despite it being shorn of its best two players in Chris Gayle and the injured Marlon Samuels. After a quiet start, Johnson Charles launched into Kyle Jarvis’ second over, hitting each of the last five balls to the boundary, two of them courtesy of elegant cover drives.
His dismissal to the much-improved Mpofu brought about a slight wobble in West Indies’ fortunes. Mpofu looked a different bowler to that which was dismantled so effectively by the home side during the ODI series. He had Charles falling across an off-cutter and Darren Bravo surprised by a quicker short ball and ended with two for 14 from his four overs. If Brendan Taylor had gathered a return cleanly to run out Dwayne Bravo a short while later then Zimbabwe would have been in with a sniff, but alas, he didn’t and the match was over a mere half an hour later in a flurry of boundaries.
Simmons was responsible for most of them. The young leg-spin pairing of Natsai Mushangwe and Tino Mutombozi had quite rightly earned plaudits for their performance in the third ODI on Tuesday, but today Simmons didn’t give them a chance to settle. He peppered the area approximately 20 yards beyond the mid-wicket boundary, dispatching the pair for five sixes in as many overs in that direction through a combination of slog sweeps and lofted drives. He brought up his third T20 fifty shortly before the end prior to finishing the match with a straight drive off Jarvis, which easily cleared the long-off boundary.
After the match, West Indies captain Darren Sammy professed himself pleased with his side’s “clinical” performance and hinted at giving opportunities to younger players such as Christopher Barnwell in the second and final match tomorrow. He also had a word for the Antiguan crowd, which had been worryingly sparse, urging them to come out and support them tomorrow, adding, “this is the first time we’ve played here as world champions!” Indeed, it is and, with this win, the West Indies have extended their T20 winning streak to six games across three different continents.
© Cricket World 2013
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