IT was a debut Twenty20 (T20) captain's role for Rovman Powell to remember, leading the West Indies to a consolation eight-wicket victory over New Zealand in the final game of their three-match series at Sabina Park on Sunday.
The Jamaican's enjoyable outing in his 50th T20I was highlighted by two other local boys, Brandon King and Odean Smith, who came up trumps with bat and ball in condemning New Zealand to their first T20 loss this year.
Smith bagged a career-best 3-29 and was supported by left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein (2-28) to help restrict New Zealand to 145-7, their lowest total of the series.
King, playing his first international game on home soil after missing the first two games due to a shoulder injury, smashed a 35-ball 53 in a 102-run opening stand with Shamarh Brooks. The partnership laid the platform for West Indies to reach 150-2 with an over to spare.
Brooks ended unbeaten on 56 off 59 balls, with Powell showcasing his power at the end. Powell, the stand-in skipper, hit the winning runs — an emphatic six over deep midwicket which cannoned on to the scoreboard. He finished unbeaten on a 15-ball 27.
While New Zealand were the happier side at the end of the series in which they dominated the first two games by registering 13-run and 90-run wins, respectively, Powell beamed about the performance under his leadership.
West Indies rested a number of players — including regular Captain Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Kyle Mayers and Obed McCoy — as Dominic Drakes and Alzarri Joseph joined Hosein and King for their first outing in the series.
"As a boy you dream, and it's a pleasure playing for the West Indies, so imagine captaining in front my home crowd — that's a special feeling. Last night [Saturday night] I spoke to the guys and asked them for the support and they gave me that today [Sunday]," Powell said in a post-game television interview.
"I think Brandon has been playing very well — and we always say that to him — it's just unfortunate that he couldn't play the first two games. But, I think Shamarh complemented him well in what was a fantastic display of batting from both of them," he added.
With West Indies chasing their lowest target of the series, King and Brooks went about business in a no-nonsense manner, the Jamaican being the aggressor as he put spinner Mitchell Santner, in particular, to the sword in the Powerplay.
The 27-year-old King played some lovely cricket strokes during his knock which included four boundaries and thres sixes, seeing West Indies to 85 at the halfway mark.
He eventually holed out to Martin Guptill at deep forward square, pulling Tim Southee's short delivery off the front foot.
Devon Thomas's stay at the crease was short-lived as Ish Sodhi had him caught by Glenn Phillips at deep midwicket, playing a slog sweep against the turn.
Still, with West Indies requiring only 37 runs from the last six overs, Powell joined Brooks and the two comfortably got the job done with minimum fuss to deny New Zealand what would have been an historic, white-ball series sweep in the Caribbean.
Powell had two fours and two sixes in his knock while Brooks also had two maximums to complement his three boundaries.
Earlier, New Zealand again won the toss and opted to take first strike, but unlike it was in the first two contests West Indies bowlers got their lines and lengths right.
Hosein sparked the early momentum, bowling Guptill (18) in the third over before having Santner (13) caught by Powell, breaking a 30-run stand with Devon Conway in the seventh over.
Conway (21) went soon after, caught behind by Thomas off Hayden Walsh, but Captain Kane Williamson and the in form Glenn Phillips staged a fightback with a 35-ball, 47-run, fourth-wicket partnership that took the visitors beyond the 100-run mark.
However, Drakes had Williamson (24) caught by Hosein in the covers after which Smith and King combined to remove Phillips for 47 off 26 balls, including four boundaries and two sixes.
From there, it was all West Indies as Smith returned to account for Daryl Mitchell (14) and James Neesham (six) to tighten the reins.