At the end of a long day and a fractured, disappointing tournament the best team won. It was a considerable blessing. New Zealand, efficient, experienced and ever aware, simply dismantled the West Indies in the NatWest Series final yesterday and bucked the fancy new theory that it is necessary to bat second to win one-day internationals.
Until yesterday all the matches in the competition had gone that way. As trends go it could hardly have been more firmly bucked. New Zealand made 266 all out and won by 107 runs, with the West Indies having more than eight overs of their innings unused. The match was always likely to depend on which West Indies side turned up and the score reveals all. The New Zealand side that turned up were the same as always.
They have some way to go but their declared ambition of becoming the No 1 limited overs side is not one for the fairies, as it might be with some teams harbouring similar aspirations. The man of the match was the left-arm spinner, Daniel Vettori, who took 5 for 30, his best figures in 136 matches, and the best bowling return in a one-day international at Lord's.
But the wicket that was greeted with most glee was that taken by Chris Harris, who had waited six agonising matches to become the first Kiwi to take 200 one-day wickets. Chris Cairns took the catch on the mid-wicket boundary under the Grand Stand to dismiss Ridley Jacobs and Harris romped over to embrace him. It was a genuinely happy moment.
By then the final had long since been over as a contest, the third in four years to be won in comfort. New Zealand made their runs with three batsmen making half centuries but nobody going on sufficiently to allow them what used to pass for an unassailable total. Their slick fielding (and both the other sides who have taken part in this tournament should take note of it) then tilted the match their way. While they have not always been at their best in that department this summer, two run- outs of key batsmen were of cardinal significance and there was a third later on to confirm that they were still concentrating.
The dangerous Ramnaresh Sarwan failed to recover his ground after backing up too far and being beaten by Harris's clinically calm throw over the stumps from backward point. Devon Smith, who was supplying the foundation of the innings, was foiled by Vettori's direct hit from short third-man while trying to nick a quick single. Vettori struck again in the late evening to send Ian Bradshaw on his way.
His dismissal of Brian Lara, leg before on the back foot to one turning from outside off, gave him his first wicket and probably the momentum to gather the other four. It was slick stuff and while at the halfway stage, West Indies must have assumed they were in with a chance, they had been disabused of the notion swiftly.
None of New Zealand's previous 35 one-day internationals in England had been at Lord's, a fact difficult to credit since the ground these days goes out of its way to be open to everybody; women in the Long Room but no one-day Kiwis on the pitch.
Thus, even for their vastly experienced side this was a special occasion. The start that the Black Caps managed after being inserted demonstrated the experience, not the nerves that might have been engendered by the surroundings. Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle took advantage of some fairly generous bowling and went along at a cracking pace. Both had escapes, and both failed to make full use of them.
New Zealand cruised past 100 at all but a run a ball and a total of 300, perhaps lots more, was comfortably attainable. New Zealand were never quite the same after the openers went within six overs of each other. Boundaries dried up: between the 16th and 35th overs there were two, after the 37th there were none.
At regular intervals, the Black Caps obliged by holing out and Chris Cairns managed to be stumped off Ridley Jacobs' chest, and off a wide to boot. Tino Best, who had yielded 30 runs in his first, indisciplined four-over spell, was still expensive on his return. But he finished off the innings with a characteristic flourish, running out Gareth Hopkins as he continued his follow through with the last-wicket pair trying to steal a single. It was Hopkins' first one-day innings and he had not faced a ball. If the fates have a heart they will let him have another go on some ground back home without so much history.
West Indies started badly and never somehow clicked. After a while and the last of four rain breaks at 6.29pm they lost heart. Vettori cleaned up. West Indies had picked eight batsmen. It looked to be either too many or not enough.Reuse content