A 2-1 scoreline is not unexpected given the way West Indies have bossed New Zealand over four of their past five limited-overs matches recently – including the two Twenty20s in Florida – but now, having managed to beat the hosts at St Kitts to keep the contest flickering, New Zealand will need to channel that momentum into the fourth match at the same venue on Saturday. The fact that Brendon McCullum is back in the squad will further give New Zealand hope that they have a realistic chance of leveling the series.
After his side’s 88-run win on Wednesday, stand-in captain Kane Williamson said that New Zealand’s rejuvenated performance with the ball and in the field would be the vehicle for a turnaround in fortunes on what has overall been a flat tour. But Williamson knows that the batting must lift itself a few notches following scores of 190, 260 and 249. Williamson has only managed one innings of note, while New Zealand’s top order has scored two half-centuries in three matches.
The top-scorer so far has been the stand-in wicketkeeper BJ Watling, with two fifties, but he was injured during the third ODI. Getting starts is imperative for New Zealand, as is the need for Brendon McCullum to make a big impact if the tourists have a chance of keeping the series alive. His brother Nathan played a big role in St Kitts with a fifty batting down the order and then taking two wickets with his handy offspin, but more is expected from the allrounders Jacob Oram and Andrew Ellis.
Also vital to New Zealand’s win was the rare failure of Chris Gayle in what has been an astounding return to West Indies duty. Judging by the way he has dominated this New Zealand attack, another sizeable effort from Gayle would have made it 3-0. Brendon McCullum, stepping into the captain’s role, will hope the bowlers at his disposal can contain Gayle again.
From a West Indian perspective, Darren Sammy will also expect more from his batsmen. Gayle’s 199 runs have carried the team, but apart from Dwayne Smith and Marlon Samuels there has been little to speak of. Johnson Charles, Denesh Ramdin, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have been mute; West Indies cannot afford another limp effort with the bat as in the third ODI.
Personnel wise, Ramdin has been released from the squad for his wedding, and will be replaced by Devon Thomas – a wicketkeeper who averages 11.66 from seven ODI innings. For New Zealand, the man to make way for Brendon McCullum will most likely be Daniel Flynn.
West Indies:1 Johnson Charles, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Dwayne Smith, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Devon Thomas (wk), 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine
New Zealand: 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 Tom Latham, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Kyle Mills