Windies close Digicel Series 4-1 at Arnos Vale: Digicel Match Report

Chris Gayle is all smiles as he holds aloft the Digicel ODI Series trophy - Randy Brooks photo and

Chris Gayle is all smiles as he holds aloft the Digicel ODI Series trophy - Randy Brooks photo and

The West Indies seem to be allergic to comprehensive victories so they let their fans enjoy some nervous moments along the way. It adds a hint of drama and spice to the proceedings and such is the essence of sport. Too many lop-sided victories will only result in diminishing spectator interest and perhaps the swift demise of any sport. There needs to be earnest competition for sport’s viability.

And so it was once again at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. After demolishing the Zimbabwean top order to 25 for 5, the Windies allowed them to recuperate to 161 all out from 50 overs. It was a modest total by any measure but the Windies are not about smooth, uneventful and ultimately boring sailing.

Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series, Chris Gayle, smashed it at the start for 63 then the Windies disconcertingly lost six wickets on their way to 165 for 6 in the four wicket win which left 22.2 overs unused.

Dwayne Bravo’s prediction of a 4-1 Digicel Series triumph was formalized upon completion of the Fifth and final Digicel ODI well before 4pm on Sunday in lush sunshine – but it did not come without tense moments of creeping doubt.

Chris Gayle pulls powerfully for a boundary - Brooks La Touche Photography and

Chris Gayle pulls powerfully for a boundary - Brooks La Touche Photography and

Medium pacer, Darren Sammy, and seamer, Ravi Rampaul, combined to blow away the Zimbabwean top order with three and two wickets for 33 and 24 runs respectively. Rampaul led the attack as ace pacer, Kemar Roach, was being rested with the Digicel Series already sealed 3-1 prior to the final encounter. So too was Shivnarine Chanderpaul and left arm spinner, Nikita Miller. It meant the three men previously on the bench – Sulieman Benn, David Bernard Jr and Darren Bravo – all took to the field.

Charles Coventry, whose exclusion from the Zimbabwean team until this match was a mystery to most Caribbean fans, top scored for his side as spurned players often do when belatedly given an opportunity.

The former world record holder for the most runs in an ODI innings rescued his team with 56 from 88 deliveries which contained five fours – one a stunning extra cover drive which left quite a few onlookers gasping at the quality of the stroke. Windies fans were perhaps secretly thankful to the Zimbabwean selectors for not including Coventry in prior games. His batting could have made telling differences in a few close contests.

It took some brilliant footballing skills from the elder Bravo to end his innings. As the positive right hander tried to steal a single, Bravo ran to the ball in his follow through and deftly kicked it onto the stumps at the striker’s end to find Coventry short by about a foot.

By then he had been involved in two partnerships which rebuilt the African side’s total.

First Coventry and Elton Chigumbura (19) moved the score from 25 for 5 to 63 for 6. Chigumbura faced 23 balls and was out cutting at Kieron Pollard’s first ball of the match.

Coventry then added 57 with Greg Lamb (16) as they took the score to 120 for 7.

When the Windies batted, Adrian Barath started with a flourish but his stay was once again disturbingly brief as he went lbw for 14. After scoring a half century on his ODI debut in Guyana five matches before, his scores have been 7, 35, 25 and 14.

Gayle then hammered 63 from 41 balls with eight blistering fours and two typically mighty sixes – over long on and long off before departing to leave the score 96 for 2. All the while Darren Bravo was but a spectator at the non-striker’s end.

Gayle treated Chigumbura with the sort of contempt he reserves for most medium pacers and lashed three consecutive fours in the seventh over of the innings.

In the next over, he took two more fours off Ray Price – then when Graeme Lamb replaced Chigumbura, he greeted him with a six, seemingly to leave no doubt as to who was in charge of the proceedings in the middle.

The Windies then stuttered, losing the two Bravos –Darren for 14, Dwayne for a second ball duck – and Narsingh Deonarine (3) in quick succession and for just 8 runs to be placed on 104 for 5.

Vincy with Thunder Stick - Courtesy DigicelCricket.Com

Vincy with Thunder Stick - Courtesy DigicelCricket.Com

Big hitting Kieron Pollard – who flies off to the IPL on Tuesday – warmed up for his next assignment with 36 from 20 balls. Thirty of those runs were from fours and sixes – three each. One of Pollard’s sixes barely missed shattering the windscreen of a vehicle parked next to the Player’s Pavilion.

Windies team celebrate victory - Randy Brooks photo and

Windies team celebrate victory - Randy Brooks photo and

Denesh Ramdin – once again promoted to number four – was more sedate. He played with a level head and formalized the victory with a pulled four to end on 21 not out after Pollard had departed at the end of the 25th over to leave the score 153 for 6.

At the post-match presentation, Gayle was loaded up with medals, cheques and Digicel issued Blackberry Bold 9700’s for his Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series awards. He had scores of 57, 88, 33, 32 and 68 for a total of 278 runs at an average of 55.6.

The Digicel Series 2010 continues on May 19th when the Windies take on South Africa in the first of two Digicel Twenty20 matches at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad. The two Twenty20 games will be followed by five ODI’s and three Test matches.

When that more illustrious African team arrives the Windies will not need to volunteer wickets to keep the contests in balance.

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