A snowballing 130-run sixth-wicket stand propelled New Zealand to 325 for 6, before a smoldering Trent Boult blasted West Indies out for 121 with help from tearaway Lockie Ferguson.
West Indies have lost every game on tour, but rarely have they appeared so outmatched. The top order showed no fight against Boult’s sniping accuracy and Ferguson’s out-and-out-pace. They were virtually out of the game inside the first six overs, in which three wickets fell, and were all out by the 29th over. With this match goes the series – West Indies are 0-2 down with one match to play.
For the hosts, the 204-run victory featured several highlights. Not only were Boult’s figures of 7 for 34 better than his previous best, they were also the second-best ODI figures for New Zealand by a whisker – Tim Southee having taken 7 for one run fewer in the 2015 World Cup. Henry Nicholls also produced a furious finish to the innings, after he and Todd Astle had lifted New Zealand from 186 for 5. His unbeaten 83 off 62 balls was also a personal best.
Elsewhere, George Worker produced an efficient fifty at the top of the innings, Ross Taylor’s half-century held New Zealand together in the middle overs, and Ferguson made clear his potential, claiming 3 for 17 in four overs of hostile fast bowling.
Quicks of both teams were aided by the surface. Though Hagley Oval is usually the domain of swing and seam movement, it was the lift in this pitch that defined the match. West Indies had actually begun the match with some promise, dismissing four New Zealand top order batsmen with deliveries that leapt more than anticipated.
Although the West Indies’ quicks’ shorter lengths had proved a danger to batsman while the ball was new, there was also opportunity later on – 68 per cent of New Zealand’s runs came square of the wicket. All innings long, only two boundaries were hit in the “V”.
Boult began to maraud the moment he got ball in hand. He could have had Evin Lewis with his second delivery, had Worker held a very difficult chance some distance to his left. No matter. The last ball of that over zipped between Kyle Hope’s bat and pad, and thundered into the stumps. Next over, Boult had Lewis miscuing a pull shot to the fine leg fielder – the drop having cost no more than nine runs.
Every time Boult bowled, a wicket did not seem far off. Still in his first spell, he had Shimron Hetmyer caught at slip for 2, then later, Shai Hope sending a ball high into the air off his top edge, to depart for a belligerent 23. By the end of Boult’s initial six-over burst, the target already seemed 100 too many for the West Indies.
Perhaps they would have made a more creditable reply had Ferguson not added to their discomfort, however. Now quite clearly the fastest bowler in New Zealand – having pipped Adam Milne for that title – Ferguson went either at the stumps or at the body, and on a pitch that suited his bowling, had success doing both. Jason Mohammed was his first victim, fending at a delivery headed for his throat – the ball taking the shoulder of the bat and floating back to the bowler. Two balls later Rovman Powell played a shot that seemed to be light years two late – the offstump uprooted before the bat was even in position. Ferguson also dismissed Jason Holder with a short ball, before Boult came back to flatten the tail.
So good were New Zealand’s quicks that perhaps West Indies were always going flounder, but in the first third of this match, the visiting quicks made regular breakthroughs, which suggested a contest could be on the cards. Then Nicholls and Astle turned what began as a recovery into a hailstorm of death-over boundaries. By the time Astle was dismissed for 49 in the final over, the previous 28 balls had produced 64 runs.
As was the case for Ferguson, this was a pitch that suited Nicholls’ batting beautifully, however. Adept at the cross-batted strokes, he cut and pulled his way into a rhythm early in his innings, and let fly with the innovations later on. Of particular note was the overhead scoop off Ronsford Beaton in the 45th over – the shot that heralded the mayhem. Three overs later, Nicholls was walloping two sixes and two fours in a Shannon Gabriel over that yielded 22. In the first 37 deliveries he faced, Nicholls had hit 27 – overturning an lbw decision against him in that time. Off his last 25 balls, Nicholls plundered 56, even finding a place for the full deliveries beyond the square boundary
Astle’s innings was not quite so explosive – he had largely sought to turn the strike over to Nicholls, scoring exclusively with singles and twos off his first 35 balls. He did eventually hit out, slog-sweeping Rovman Powell for six twice in the 49th over. A little fortune made that final flourish possible: Astle had been dropped off Powell by wicketkeeper Shai Hope, in the 46th over.
West Indies were not completely without performers. Sheldon Cottrell – the left-arm quick who replaced the injured Kesrick Williams in this match – was the first bowler to use the short ball effectively in this match. His figures worsened as a result of New Zealand’s fast finish, but he claimed a creditable 3 for 62 nonetheless. Holder returned 2 for 52 for himself.
But although visiting teams sometimes feel as they have the measure of New Zealand conditions, the home side almost unfailingly have in their ranks players who turn the match emphatically in their favour. This is New Zealand’s ninth series victory in their 10 last bilateral series at home.