New Zealand face another assault by Chris Gayle when they take on West Indies in the third ODI of the five-match series at Basseterre on Wednesday.
The big-hitting batsman has been a thorn in the Kiwi flesh in this series so far. He scored 63 not out in the first ODI as the Caribbean team easily chased down a revised target of 136 in a rain-affected match. In the hosts’ second ODI win at Jamaica, Gayle went one better smashing 125 off 107 balls with the help of eight fours and nine towering sixes.
Clearly, he is West Indies’ talisman right now. Ever since his return to international cricket after one year, it seems as if he is trying to make a point. In the two T20s preceding the ongoing series, he was no less impressive with scores of 85 not out and 53. His century at Jamaica was his 20th century in one-day cricket and took him past Brian Lara's 19 as the most by a West Indian batsman.
The Indian Premier League seems to have done Gayle a lot of good. He seems to have found a new approach towards batting. He is not impetuous anymore. No bang, bang from ball one. In fact, at the start of his innings he is very cautious, takes his time and once he is set, it’s death for bowlers. Honestly speaking, one can’t see how the Black Caps are going to stop him.
Marlon Samuels, another centurion at Jamaica, and Dwayne Smith, who scored 65 not out in the first ODI, have also come good. So it’s little wonder that New Zealand are looking over their shoulders ahead of the match.
They have been pathetic so far. They have been mauled in all the four internationals against the Windies so far (two T20s and two ODIs). Their regular captain Ross Taylor is out with a shoulder injury and that is one reason why they have looked dispirited.
Kane Williamson, who has stepped into the captaincy breach, has failed to breathe life into this bunch. One good news for the Kiwi camp is that star wicketkeeper batsman Brendon McCullum, who was rested for the series, is likely to join the squad a few hours before the match. Word is he is unlikely to play in this match because of jet lag but considering the desperate situation the visitors are in, there shouldn’t be any surprise if he decides to feature in the encounter.
New Zealand all-rounder Nathan McCullum has gone pubic saying they have devised a plan to get the better of Gayle. Let’s hope they really have, otherwise it can turn out to be another humiliating outing for New Zealand.
There will also be some emotional side to the match as West Indies remember former player Runako Mortan, who was killed in a car accident in March earlier this year. Captain Darren Sammy has declared that he will donate his entire match fee to the Mortan family.
West Indies: 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Dwayne Smith, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Andre Russell, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine
New Zealand: 1 Brendon McCullum/Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Dean Flynn, 5 T Latham, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 B Watling (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Tarun Nethula