BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) — West Indies enter today's third One-Day International (ODI) against beleaguered New Zealand knowing a win will hand them their first series triumph over a top-eight side in four years.
The Caribbean side, propelled by exhilarating form by opener Chris Gayle, has been outstanding on the tour and will back themselves to win their third straight match, the first of a triple-header at Warner Park here.
Captain Darren Sammy, under fire in recent months, especially on the side's winless tour of England, cut a happier figure as he talked up his side's chances of winning the series.
"It feels really good. Since the start of the series in Florida we have been playing some really good cricket and it's good to see that we've been consistently good in what we've been doing so we're just looking to continue again," he told reporters.
"Wednesday (today) will be a chance to clinch the series, so we're looking to do that."
West Indies have not beaten a team ranked in the top eight since a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka in a three-match series back in 2008. Since then, they have lurched from one defeat to another, celebrating series victories only over minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
After sweeping the T20 double-header in Florida two weeks ago, they constructed convincing performances to whip the Black Caps in the first two ODIs at Sabina Park last week.
They won the opening game by nine wickets and the second by 55 runs, with Gayle proving the architect in both fixtures.
The left-hander hit an unbeaten 63 and followed up with 125 in the second match — an innings that saw him top the list for the most centuries in ODIs by a West Indian.
"You can see what he does at the top of the order. He's brilliant for us and so far since he's come back, he's been really good for us at the top of the innings," Sammy said.
"He's really stabilised the opening partnership... and we've been able to post good totals, especially in this series against New Zealand."
New Zealand have been weakened with injuries, losing influential captain and batsman Ross Taylor with a shoulder injury and pacer Doug Bracewell to a back injury.
Fast bowling all-rounder Andrew Ellis is also struggling with a leg injury.
Sammy was quick to push back on suggestions that the Windies were only dominating because of the weakened New Zealand unit.
"People will say what they want and have an opinion, but at the end of the day, you've still got to go out there and win cricket matches and so far we're doing that, something we have not done consistently for a long time," Sammy contended.
"So we're just looking to take it one day at a time. We'll come again and plan for them on Wednesday and see how it goes, and Saturday (fourth ODI) and Monday (fifth ODI) we'll look to wrap up the series."
He added: "But it's good to see how the guys are playing. We're going about doing our jobs professionally and I think the coach and everyone is happy with the progress we're making."
New Zealand, meanwhile, have spent much of their time trying to figure out how to restrict West Indies, especially Gayle who has scored a half-century in every innings against them so far on tour.
Coach John Wright said they were at pains to break the losing streak, and was considering the inclusion of pacer Trent Boult who was a late call-up due to the side's injury woes.
"It's a very flat wicket, an even smaller ground straight than Jamaica, so we have to do something about our bowling. We think the variation Boult will provide early on in the innings to Gayle [could help]. We need to do something differently," Wright said.
"He's put us under pressure right from the word go in the Twenty20s in Miami. It has allowed batsmen to bat around him.
"He's going to fail some time. I just feel if we can bowl better and do things 10 per cent better right throughout our game we will have the opportunity to beat this side with Gayle scoring runs or not.
"It's been challenging to come up to speed, but if we can do some thing correctly in this match, we are going to get some results somewhere along the line."