The sharp Russell struck with his first delivery, in the second over, and New Zealand were always under pressure after that. BJ Watling, the wicketkeeper-batsman, hung around to ensure New Zealand batted out 50 overs, something they hadn’t looked like achieving at 71 for 5 in the 24th over.
In contrast, Gayle and Smith bulldozed their way to 93 for 1 in 18 overs before returning after an almost two-hour rain break to motor to the revised target of 136 in 33 overs with 52 deliveries to spare. The game, though, had almost been decided during New Zealand’s disappointing innings.
The visitors made the Sabina Park surface look much worse than it actually was. There was bounce, but little seam movement, and the swing wasn’t unmanageable. West Indies, though, made superb use of whatever was on offer, Russell finding just enough away shape to have Guptill edging his sixth ball low to second slip. That was one of the few wickets New Zealand did not give away.
Daniel Flynn seemed to have recovered from a scratchy start only to chop a drive onto his stumps; Rob Nicol looked alright before charging and holing out to deep square leg to give Russell his third wicket in his fifth over.
New Zealand were 36 for 3 in ten overs when Sunil Narine came on to bowl, and predictably, they had no clue what was coming their way. Thumb or no thumb on the ball, they could not make out the big offspinner from the carrom ball. Dean Brownlie scratched around for 13 balls to make one run before being caught plumb in front by a straighter one from Narine.
Watling, though he never looked completely in control, settled down to nudge and whip on the leg side, 50 of his 60 runs coming on that half of the ground. He added 46 with Jacob Oram and 44 with Andrew Ellis and survived two leg-before referrals, against Narine when on 26 and against Russell on 40.Kane Williamson, the stand-in New Zealand captain, and Watling somehow managed to survive Narine’s opening spell of 5-1-4-1. Just when New Zealand seemed to have begun some sort of recovery, Williamson, on 24, guided Darren Sammy’s fourth ball into the hands of the keeper to leave the visitors struggling to survive the full 50 overs.
But the boost that could have taken New Zealand towards a fighting total never arrived. Jacob Oram, the only New Zealand batsman who looked threatening, got out in the second over of the batting Powerplay, looking for more runs after swinging a couple of sixes. Just 26 runs came off the Powerplay ultimately, and it ended with Ellis playing out a maiden to Narine, who later bowled Ellis to finish with 2 for 26.
Watling continued to accumulate as New Zealand scraped 57 off the last ten overs, but as if succumbing to Russell and co. was not enough, New Zealand had Gayle and Smith to contend with. To round off their woes, Ellis could not bowl after picking up a leg injury while batting.
In his first international match at his home ground since June 2009, Gayle began like he often has recently, with a maiden to Tim Southee. He soon started to swing boundaries down the ground freely. Southee and Oram were lifted nonchalantly for straight sixes; the spinners Tarun Nethula and Nicol met a similar fate. Smith, who largely struggled for timing, clobbered a few sixes over his favoured leg side, and also benefited from loose deliveries on the pads.
With West Indies having knocked off nearly half of the original target in 18 overs, the expected rain arrived. Had there been a washout, the game would have ended without a result as West Indies’ innings had been halted two overs short of the 20 needed for the Duckworth-Lewis method to be applied.
However, play eventually resumed with an hour to go for the cut-off time of 6 pm, leaving West Indies another 43 to get in 90 deliveries. Gayle and Smith eased to victory in fading light; New Zealand’s chances had faded long back.