Paceman Lockie Ferguson unleashed a devastating five-wicket barrage, as New Zealand downed the West Indies in a curler coaster T20 series opener in Auckland on Friday. The match — the first international cricket played in New Zealand for just about nine months — produced a nail-biting finale as the Black Caps reached 179-5 in the last over after being set a target of 176. Persistent showers meant the innings were reduced to 16 and plenty of players, especially the tourists, were rusty after only emerging from Covid-19 quarantine on Thursday.
But there were outstanding individual performances on both sides, especially 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 some of the craziest grounds you might want to ever play at, the ball flies far and wide and fortunately for me today it went to hand, which is nice,” he said.
Pollard nearly swung momentum back to the West Indies single-handedly, clubbing eight sixes and four fours to make sure his team set a competitive target.
“It was once improbable cricket, on the subject of the ball flaying in every single place the boundaries,” he said.
“It was once 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 every 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 missing five wickets for a unmarried run over the class lesson of 11 balls, with Ferguson claiming three scalps all the way through the spell and captain Tim Southee two.
Pollard’s contribution looked adore 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 once run out.
The Black Caps’ South African-born debutant Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham were having a look 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 once a very bizarre game but nice to come out the correct side,” said Southee, who is standing in as steady skipper Kane Williamson makes a speciality of Test cricket.
“It’s been a very long time coming, we’re lucky 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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