West Indies have claimed first blood against a bruised BLACKCAPS unit with a resounding 56 run win in the first Twenty20 at Central Broward Regional Park in Florida.
In sweltering heat a strong crowd came to witness the landmark match and they certainly got their money’s worth.
When Chris Gayle scores 85 not out and is still reduced to playing second fiddle for much of the innings two things are for sure; it’s going to be spectacular viewing and the opposition are in for a rough day in the field.
Both theories were proved right.
Along with Gayle, Keiron Pollard was absolutely brilliant for the West Indies, cracking a pulsating 63 off 29 balls to help his side post 209 for two. The BLACKCAPS were competitive, but could only manage to post 153 in their pursuit.
It wasn’t the result that New Zealand would have been hoping to start their tour off with, but of more concern would have to be the high injury toll.
Both Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor were forced from the field during the match, while Ronnie Hira was rushed to hospital with a dislocated finger.
Oram landed awkwardly while attempting to field a ball at long off, but returned despite obvious discomfort. Taylor was another casualty in the outfield, injuring his shoulder going for a catch, but remained on the field before being forced to retire during the New Zealand innings.
It was evident things didn't go the way of the BLACKCAPS, while the West Indies showed ominous signs from the outset.
Opener Dwayne Smith made his intentions clear early on, smashing Nathan McCullum’s first ball for six, being one of two from the over. Along with Gayle, the pair put on 27 for the first wicket, before Bracewell bowled Smith for 17.
The West Indies continued to play sensibly until the dismissal of Johnson Charles brought Keiron Pollard to the crease.
Pollard smashed five sixes and five fours in his unbeaten 63, with an unbelievable strike rate of 217.24.
Gayle was for a time relegated to being a spectator, but soon joined the action to put on a mesmerising 108 partnership with Pollard off just 41 deliveries.
The BLACKCAPS in reply were always facing an uphill battle and the pressure of the high run-rate soon told.
New Zealand lost key firepower early, with Guptill dismissed cheaply and Taylor forced from the field after making 10 not out.
Tim Southee was promoted up the order and sent a couple of balls out of the ground, but between some quick glove work and excellent fielding, the West Indies tore through the BLACKCAPS batting line-up.
With both Hira and Taylor unable to bat, the match finished after 18.3 overs with New Zealand at 153 for eight.
Rob Nicol finished top scorer with 32, while Oram put in a valiant effort on virtually one leg with a quick-fire 27 off 13.
It’s a rusty and costly return to cricket for the BLACKCAPS who have a lot to think about ahead of the second Twenty20 tomorrow at the same venue.
Tomorrows match will be live on Sky Sport from 6:00am and live scored on www.blackcaps.co.nz.