NEW Zealand showed fight, but classy centuries from Jamaicans Chris Gayle and Man-of-the-Match Marlon Samuels gave the West Indies victory by 55 runs at Sabina Park to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match One-Day International Series yesterday.
The 32-year-old Gayle, with a 107-ball 125, and Samuels, unbeaten on 101 from 103 balls, shared a third-wicket partnership of 129 in just over 19 overs to propel West Indies to 315-5 in their 50 overs.
Fast bowler Ravi Rampaul then led the way with 3-50 as New Zealand were dismissed for 260 in 47 overs.
For the immensely powerful left-hander Gayle, who has been in matchless form since his return to the West Indies team following his year-and-a-half-long standoff with the West Indies Board, yesterday’s century put him at the top of the West Indies ODI list. He now has 20 ODI ton — ahead of his “hero” Brian Lara (19).
The silky, smooth right-handed 31-year-old Samuels, long considered an under-achiever, was scoring only his third ODI century and his first in the Caribbean — an achievement he described on television as “very sweet”.
Samuels, who wished Jamaicans a “happy (50th) anniversary” and spoke of his joy at the opportunity to bat in partnership with his close friend Gayle, had stroked a six and seven fours.
His dismissal of Martin Guptill and Tom Latham with his fast-flat off breaks ensured Samuels was adjudged Man-of-the-Match ahead of Gayle.
Performing before his father, other family members and a joyful, vuvuzela-blowing crowd of several thousands in brilliant sunshine, Gayle slammed nine sixes and eight fours and until his dismissal was rarely bothered.
“I planned this for two years,” he said of his becoming the top West Indian century maker in oneday cricket. “I wanted to do it here against India (last year). That didn’t happen, but now I’m very pleased,” he told TV interviewer Barry Wilkinson.
Gayle and Samuels apart, captain Darren Sammy with a breezy 31 from 21 balls at the tail end of the innings and Dwayne Smith, 24 from 36 balls, were the other worthy contributors after the Windies were sent in.
Seamer Tim Southee, who bowled superbly at the end of the innings, regularly hitting the yorker length, was the top New Zealand bowler with 3-55.
BJ Watling, New Zealand’s top batsman in last Thursday’s opening ODI, was again the pick of the visitors, showing impressive innovative skills in an unbeaten 62-ball 72.
His scooped six over fine leg from a low Rampaul full toss was arguably the shot of the day. Captain Kane Williamson’s 59 from 65 balls with a six and four fours and Martin Guptill’s 51 (five fours, 81 balls) also caught the eye.
But Gayle and Samuels had left the inexperienced visitors with too much to do. The need for them to constantly accelerate led to wickets at inopportune moments as mesmeric off-spinner Sunil Narine (2-44), Samuels (2-46) with his fast, flat off-breaks and seamer Andre Russell, 1-51, earned reward in support of Rampaul.
As the West Indies had done in the opening game, New Zealand, having won the toss, sent their hosts to bat on a pitch with early moisture.
And as was the case in the opening game, the bowlers found generous seam movement early on. Lendl Simmons, having battled for 17 balls, eventually hung his bat at Southee’s away swinger for a simple catch to ’keeper Watling at 10-1 in the fourth over.
As if on cue, Gayle opened his assault, taking 18 from the fifth over — thrice lofting Mills over long off into the North Stand. He never relented thereafter, though he was forced to show respect to wrist-spinner Tarun Nethula, whose 1-66 from 10 overs did him no justice.
Smith, without being at his best, shared 88 for the second wicket with Gayle in 15 overs before miscuing his lofted straight drive off Nethula to be comfortably taken at long-off.
That opened the way for the ‘Gayle and Samuels’ show. With the powerful Gayle on song, Samuels took his time, watching from the other end as the left-hander alternated his six-hitting between towering blows — one of which threatened the top tier of the Press Box in the North Stand — and others flat in trajectory, but with unbelievable power.
At 66, Gayle became the highest run scorer in ODIs for the Windies against New Zealand. He celebrated the 50 stand with Samuels by launching the spin of Rob Nicol and Daniel Flynn into the Headley Stand in the 28th and 29th overs to move through the 90s.
He survived a huge appeal for caught behind against Flynn at 98 before his under-edged sweep off the part-time off-spin of Williamson found the fine leg boundary to take him past the landmark ton. Gayle’s elaborate celebration included a salute on bended knee to family and friends in the Party Stand.
The score accelerated still further with Gayle’s century complete. Samuels, dancing forward, lofted over wide long-on for his only six and Gayle, in the very next over, smashed Nethula back overhead for a six and four off successive deliveries.
Samuels reached his 50 off 58 balls with a lovely square-cut to the point boundary off Mills.
The West Indies at that point were eying 350, but the loss of Gayle put paid to that. Looking to hoist Mills over the mid-wicket fence, he found the waiting hands of Tom Latham at 227-3 in the 38th.
Samuels kept his foot on the gas, elegantly coverdriving Southee for three boundaries in a row in the 39th over. But the innings lost momentum with the loss of Kieron Pollard (8) adjudged LBW as he swung across Southee’s full delivery, and Dwayne Bravo (3) bowled off his boot by a yorker.
Sammy then restored momentum alongside Samuels, who achieved the magic three-figures with five balls remaining.