Chris Gayle is too good at the moment.
The rest of the West Indian players scored 180 off 193 (incl extras), roughly 5 and a half an over. New Zealand scored 260 off 47 overs, roughly 5 and a half an over. And yet this match was not even close. Gayle is just too good.
The match had the usual ebbs and flows, but throughout it West Indies were better in almost every area.
It started with New Zealand keeping the West Indies under some control for the first 4 overs. West Indies were 1/10, and it was looking like the decision to bowl first was a good one. Then Gayle hit 3 sixes off Kyle Mills.
Despite New Zealand's fielding and bowling being a lot sharper than in previous games, the score kept climbing. For a large section of the game they were looking like they were going to get more than 350. At the other end first Dwayne Smith then Marlon Samuels kept the pressure on the New Zealand attack, occasionally scoring with big shots, but feeding Gayle the strike well.
Gayle seemed to make a special effort to attack Mills and that was probably the best battle of the match. Mills got his man eventually, but he had conceded 34 runs off the 33 deliveries that he bowled to Gayle. The other key battle was Samuels against Nethula. Nethula made life difficult for Samuels, who looked eager to get on top of his fellow spinner. Nethula held Samuels to 19 off 26 deliveries.
West Indies looked all set to explode on 227 off 37, but the New Zealand bowlers stepped up at the death. West Indies only scored 66 off the last 10 overs, a good effort on a 220 pitch, but they really should have been looking for 40 more. Not that it mattered. In the last 6 overs the New Zealand bowlers hit their lengths very well and the West Indian batsmen managed only 3 boundaries.
The New Zealand innings started off well again, having the highest opening partnership for the 4th consecutive match. But Guptill managed to keep picking out fielders. The defining feature of his play in the New Zealand summer was how straight he hit the ball. Often mid on and mid off had to stand so close together that they left gaps in the covers and at mid wicket for him to work singles. Today he managed to hit the ball directly to mid on or mid off a number of times. Part of this may have been due to the West Indian bowling plan.
One of the advantages of playing at home is that you know how a pitch is going to behave, and consequently what length is the hardest to score off. The West Indian bowlers (particularly their spinners and Sammy) bowled a shorter length than the New Zealanders. Chatting to Marlon Samuels after the match he said that that was a deliberate plan, because the pitch tended to hold up as the day went on. Perhaps the difficulty in timing the ball was in part due to this.
The major highlight of the New Zealand innings was BJ Wattling. On Thursday he looked scratchy and out of form. It was almost like he scored the runs more by good luck than good management. Today however he looked classy. It was as though his fifty in the first game convinced him that he could play at this level, and he went out today believing it. His 72* off 62 was as good an innings as you are likely to see, and was a surprise to me, because I have never seen him display that level of ability.
For a brief moment it even looked like Wattling and Oram might take New Zealand home. But 316 was always too much, and it proved to be so.
Today was the West Indies day, and Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels' day in particular.