A Chris Gayle blast in a special "eliminator over" broke the deadlock between the West Indies and New Zealand to give the tourists the honours in the opening Twenty20 cricket match in Auckland today. After two drawn Tests earlier in the month, the series moved to the limited overs segment with the first Twenty20 clash ending in a 155-all tie, resulting in the first use in a Twenty20 international of a one-over play-off.
Gayle, who had the Midas touch throughout the match, taking two for 16 and top-scoring with 67, belted 25 including three sixes and a four in the eliminator over off New Zealand's star bowler Daniel Vettori. New Zealand in reply had lost their two wickets for 15 by the fourth ball bowled by Suleiman Benn. When Vettori won the toss he had no hesitation in batting first but apart from Ross Taylor who made 62, New Zealand's big hitters were never able to control the West Indies attack.
Taylor belted four fours and four sixes, mainly to the leg side, before his 50-ball stand came to an end when he was bowled by Jerome Taylor while trying to up the scoring pace in the penultimate over. The rest of the New Zealand top order were all unable to build on good starts as Brendon McCullum fell for 14, Jesse Ryder for 12 and Scott Styris made 21 off 12 balls. Midway through the 10th over New Zealand were three for 70.
When Gayle snapped up a sharp caught and bowled chance from James Franklin they were five for 112 with only 27 balls remaining before Taylor's finishing flourish brought some respectability to the total. The 2.02 metre tall Benn proved particularly hard to get away and finished with one for 20 off four overs. Gayle, who returned two for 16 from three overs, charged into the run chase when the West Indies came to bat, racing to 67 off 41 balls including five fours and five sixes.
But apart from 28 by Xavier Marshall, he found long-term partners hard to come by. The lack of depth in the West Indies batting line-up was exposed when Gayle skied the ball and was caught by Ross Taylor off Jeetan Patel. The visitors then needed 42 to win off 35 balls and with six wickets in hand. At the start of the last over the West Indies still needed seven runs to win and New Zealand pace man Tim Southee, who was knocked for 30 runs by Gayle in his first two overs, was brought back to bowl at the death.
In the first four balls Shawn Findlay was caught behind and Fidel Edwards was run out. But when it came to the last two deliveries, with the West Indies needing six to win, Southee yielded a four and a single forcing the game into the play-off. The second and final Twenty20 game in Hamilton on Sunday will be followed by five one-day internationals. *AFP