Performance matches smart new Nelson venue

MARK GEENTY AT SAXTON OVAL
Last updated 05:00 05/01/2014

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The sun mercifully shone long enough on Nelson's big cricketing day out, then the gloom descended further on the West Indies.

It was mission accomplished for New Zealand, who cantered to a 58-run Duckworth-Lewis victory that was inevitable a long way out against their depleted and demoralised visitors. And for the shiny new Saxton Oval, there was a healthy pass mark in its World Cup dress rehearsal.

The rain stayed away until 5.15pm and didn't ruin the party. The West Indies were clinging on at 134-5 in the 34th over - well short of the required par total of 192-5 - when the players scuttled to the $3.5 million pavilion.

Now 2-1 up in the series, New Zealand will be at microscopic odds to wrap it up in game five in Hamilton on Wednesday.

Yesterday emphasised the widening gap between the sides as the Black Caps named their strongest lineup and were razor-sharp in the field, in contrast to the West Indies, who dropped easy catches, misfielded and looked like the long plane ride home beckoned.

Another frontliner bit the dust, too, leaving the tourists with just 12 fit players.

Seamer Ravi Rampaul suffered a fractured left thumb when he was hit by a delivery in the nets, meaning seven of their best 11 are now injured or absent after Auckland matchwinner Darren Sammy tore his hamstring in Queenstown.

Thankfully, dire weather eased and ensured the 5300 ticketholders arrived with a spring in their steps, filling the grassy banks and temporary stands in the shadow of the Richmond Range.

It was some act for New Zealand to follow after their Queenstown pyrotechnics.

Hordes of orange t-shirt wearers flocked in, in hope of winning $100,000 with a one-handed crowd catch in a brewery promotion. A mammoth 22 sixes rained down in 21 overs in Queenstown; yesterday there were just five in 50 overs as New Zealand toiled hard to reach 285-6, well above par on a pitch they described as two-paced with tennis ball bounce after being under cover for days.

World record-holder Corey Anderson blazed a 36-ball century on a Queenstown belter and cleared the rope 14 times; yesterday he didn't arrive till the 44th over and faced just 13 balls. He got the biggest roar off the final delivery when he sent the West Indies' best bowler, Jason Holder, into orbit.

Captain Brendon McCullum bucked the trend by batting first on winning the toss, and it was hard work, particularly for opener Martin Guptill. He was eight off 40 balls and the crowd got restless and offered advice. It showed how the traditional safe start with wickets in hand is now not enough for viewers who have been gorging on Twenty20 cricket.

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Guptill broke the shackles with a big straight six off Dwayne Bravo and fought his demons, reaching his 18th ODI half-century and anchoring the innings with 81 off 119 balls.

Breezy knocks from Jesse Ryder (47 off 49), Kane Williamson (47 off 55) and Ross Taylor (49 off 44) got New Zealand in 250-plus territory. So did the West Indies' fielding.

Holder was the pick of the bowlers but watched three simple catches grassed off his bowling; two off Ryder from edges on 12 and 14. Rampaul's injury saw the speedy, erratic Tino Best recalled and his ninth over went for 22.

Paceman Tim Southee was recalled after minor toe surgery, making this New Zealand's best available side. Barring Daniel Vettori, currently playing Twenty20 in Australia, it was potentially New Zealand's lineup for the World Cup opener in 13 months' time and the clinical showing befitted that.

They pounced in the field, too, as the issue was quickly beyond doubt.

Williamson dived to run out the sleepy Chadwick Walton then McCullum fired one back from mid-off to remove Kirk Edwards. Both runs were poor attempts and summed up the tourists' day. Only Lendl Simmons (43 off 48) got going before slogging out to deep mid-wicket.

The only doubt then became whether rain would intervene. New Zealand produced their own version of speed cricket with Nathan McCullum and Kane Williamson rushing through the overs, and once they got past 20 in the drizzle it was game on, then game over.

- Sunday Star Times

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