Another knock of 90 from Nathan Astle and a fine spell of bowling from the BLACKACPS attack earned a comprehensive 81-run victory over the West Indies in the first One-Day International of The National Bank Series in Wellington.
Astle’s score completed a strong start from the top order, following Jamie How’s top international score of 66 and a quick-fire 55 from captain Stephen Fleming.
After setting 288 for six, a fine start was back by the spin combination of Jeetan Patel and Daniel Vettori broke the tourists’ resistance before Michael Mason earned two wickets on his return.
The BLACKCAPS side saw changes, How, Michael Mason and Daniel Vettori coming in for the erstwhile Chris Cairns and Lou Vincent. The tourists introduced Ramnaresh Sarwan but lost the influential Dwayne Bravo.
Fleming won the toss and batted and a century opening stand of 136 by How and Astle set the tone and the final total proved more than enough.
How took the lead and made 66, before lashing out at the penultimate ball of a perfectly-pitched maiden over from Chris Gayle. The captain took over from How, and Fidel Edwards welcomed him with a short-pitched delivery which struck him on the head, but he remained his usual unflustered self.
Fleming shrugged off the blow and motored on gaining the upper hand in his duals with the Windies’ attack with a brisk-paced innings reminiscent of his last outing at the ground against Sri Lanka.
Fleming and Astle hit 88 together in 14 overs, before the former, on 55 was caught by counterpart Shivnarine Chanderpaul off Smith.
Scott Styris replaced Fleming, but the new pair put only 10 in two overs before Astle succumbed for 90, caught by Bradshaw off Smith in a similar fashion to Fleming.
Expert finisher Brendon McCullum was escalated up the order, but he could not make a start, falling for two when clipping a ball from Lewis to fellow ‘keeper Denesh Ramdin. His Canterbury colleague Peter Fulton came to the crease, but made only seven as Smith took a simple catch at the square leg boundary to earn Gayle a second wicket.
James Franklin, a batting hero in Auckland, also earned a couple before a mis-timed big hit off Ian Bradshaw was easily caught by Lewis. The penultimate over saw Hamish Marshall and Styris look to accelerate the pace off Gayle, and they struck 11, but seeking 12, Marshall was run out by Smith for seven.
Styris had accumulated a decent 36 but after edging Edwards twice, he was caught lbw by the Bajan pace bowler.
Shane Bond arrived in the middle, and chasing more runs. Vettori was run out without facing a ball to complete a strong recovery by the visitors.
And the match was sealed when Franklin took his second catch to give Patel the wicket of Edwards to complete a comprehensive win.
In reply, the visitors could achieve only 207 before submitting to a confident-looking BLACKCAPS attack.
Gayle again failed to start, scoring six before Bond struck in the fourth over, forcing the Jamaican to his World Xi team-mate Vettori at mid-on.
One over later, Franklin, who has so often produced fine starts this season, bowled Runako Morton for a golden duck.
Opener Daren Ganga then took the reins and earned 50 as part of a partnership of 88 from 17 overs with Sarwan before falling to Styris, caught by Astle.
After the power play had elapsed, Fleming brought on his spin attack and a measured spell of bowling from Vettori and Patel slowed the progress.
In the 30th over, Patel produced a memorable dismissal of Chanderpaul for 18 with the score at 137 for four.
Patel exploited the visiting captain’s unusual, straight-on stance to nutmeg him with a ball turning away from the left-hander to remove the off bail.
Not to be left out of the wickets, Vettori then claimed Wavell Hinds for three, a big hit over point dropping short to Franklin on the boundary.
Sarwan also made his half-century, and made 56 from 79 balls before edging Vettori to McCullum, who could not grasp the shot but saw it float towards to sub fielder Vincent at point, who caught the ricochet.
Michael Mason claimed a wicket on his return, the seventh of the innings, Ramdin going for the wide ball but Styris caught him at sweeper.
Dashing for vital runs as they attempted to claim an unlikely win, Lewis was run out by fellow spinner Patel’s quick thinking at square leg.
And Patel once more intervened to earn Mason’s second wicket, earning revenge for Smith’s back to back sixes with a catch at extra cover to remove the dangerous all-rounder for 38, off 25 balls.
All that remained was for Franklin to take catch Edwards on the boundary to earn another wicket for Patel.
Both spinners grabbed a brace, as did the returning Mason, as the BLACKCAPS and their fans celebrated taking a 1-0 series lead before the teams head south to Queenstown.