Unscarred by four consecutive losses, the fresh legs and minds of Trent Boult and Brendon McCullum got the plaudits for helping revive New Zealand's tour of the West Indies.
The latter didn't even play, but will take over the reins for Sunday's fourth ODI with the series poised at 2-1 after his stirring team talk inspired the tourists to a remarkable win in St Kitts yesterday.
McCullum – whose brother Nathan played a big role with bat and ball in the 88-run victory – was kept on ice after arriving just 24 hours earlier. But the vice-captain's influence was telling.
All-rounder Jacob Oram, who took 2-22, said it made a difference: "We had a meeting [on match eve] and, if anything, it was ... a voice that hasn't been tainted by the last couple of weeks with losing four on the bounce.
"Brendon had watched the games on TV; he came and gave his thoughts and opinions, not only how we'd been going but also the West Indies boys and how to bowl and bat against them."
Central to that was the scalp of Chris Gayle, sparked by the unlikely figure of debutant Boult, bustling in and swinging the new ball. The three-test left-armer marked his first ODI delivery with a magnificent yorker to Gayle; five dot balls later he enticed an edge between wicketkeeper and slip.
Having plundered 326 runs from four innings, Gayle was suddenly uncertain. Tim Southee, who had predicted victory hinged on Gayle's wicket, then found the edge to Rob Nicol at slip and the big left-hander was gone for 11.
Captain Kane Williamson said: "Trent [who took 2-45] bowled really well; he executed his plans well and he was quite threatening with that new ball, swinging it. Obviously [Gayle's wicket] was very important. He's put us away every game this series, so to get him out really boosted the lads in the field and that's where things started."
Chasing what Williamson rated a below-par New Zealand total of 249-9, the West Indies never got going and were dismissed for 161 in the 35th over.
Tight bowling and brilliant fielding, akin to New Zealand's World Cup quarterfinal victory over South Africa last year, strangled the hosts, and some loose shots sealed it.
Nathan McCullum took a running, diving catch to remove Dwayne Smith and Martin Guptill, despite shelling two catches, produced a brilliant direct hit to remove Marlon Samuels. Williamson and Southee also produced runouts.
"In those must-win matches, we showed that fight which was really important. We showed the fielding that we can produce at times," Williamson said.
The only downside was BJ Watling's quadricep strain during his innings of 40 off 47 balls. He could not keep wicket and Williamson rated him unlikely for Sunday at the same venue.
Offsetting that is McCullum's return, and possibly that of regular skipper Ross Taylor (shoulder) for game five, the potential decider, on Tuesday.
Nicol was a surprise choice ahead of Nathan McCullum for man of the match. He top-scored with 59 while McCullum chimed in with a vital 50 and took 2-40. Williamson's only complaint was the batsmen's failures to kick on again, on a batting surface with more pace than Kingston. Watling's unbeaten 72 in game two remains New Zealand's highest.
"We need to look at turning those 50s, which are really starts, into bigger scores to make a difference in an innings."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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