Paceman Lockie Ferguson unleashed a devastating five-wicket barrage, as New Zealand downed the West Indies in a roller coaster T20 series opener in Auckland on Friday. The match — the first international cricket played in New Zealand for almost nine months — produced a nail-biting finale as the Black Caps reached 179-5 in the final over after being set a target of 176. Persistent showers meant the innings were reduced to 16 and many players, particularly the tourists, were rusty after only emerging from Covid-19 quarantine on Thursday.
But there were outstanding individual performances on both sides, particularly man of the match Ferguson and West Indies captain Kieron Pollard’s unbeaten 75 from 37 balls.
Ferguson claimed a career-best haul of 5-21 to put the brakes on a flying start from the West Indies, saying the short boundaries at Eden Park helped his cause.
“It’s one of the craziest grounds you could ever play at, the ball flies everywhere and fortunately for me today it went to hand, which is nice,” he said.
Pollard almost swung momentum back to the West Indies single-handedly, clubbing eight sixes and four fours to ensure his team set a competitive target.
“It was fantastic cricket, in terms of the ball flaying all over the boundaries,” he said.
“It was a topsy-turvy sort of game, a bit of indiscipline showed with us on the bowling side.”
Before play commenced, both sides took a knee in a gesture against racism, with the West Indies players each raising a black-gloved fist.
‘Long time coming’
West Indies opener Andre Fletcher smashed back-to-back sixes off debutant Kyle Jamieson, who conceded 18 from his first over in international T20 cricket.
The tourists were even more brutal against Hamish Bennett, plundering 29 runs from a nightmare over for the fast bowler.
They were 58 without loss before Ferguson broke through and clean-bowled Fletcher on 34.
The West Indies then lost five wickets for a single run over the course of 11 balls, with Ferguson claiming three scalps during the spell and captain Tim Southee two.
Pollard’s contribution looked like it would prove decisive when New Zealand made a shaky start, and veteran opener Martin Guptill departed for five.
They were soon 63 for four when Ross Taylor was run out.
The Black Caps‘ South African-born debutant Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham were looking dangerous, when Pollard broke their 77-run partnership with Conway caught on 41.
But Neesham, who scored 48 from 24 balls, steered the New Zealanders home with Mitchell Santner, who hit a six to claim victory with four balls to spare.
“It was a very strange game but nice to come out the right side,” said Southee, who is standing in as regular skipper Kane Williamson focuses on Test cricket.
“It’s been a long time coming, we’re fortunate to be back out here playing in front of the crowds and hope the fans enjoyed it.”
The next fixture in the three-match series is in Mount Maunganui on Sunday.
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