MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - New Zealand’s unbeaten Cricket World Cup run went within one shot and two meters of ending in the most improbable way as Carlos Brathwaite blazed away for West Indies.
Brathwaite stroked 101 from 82 balls and combined with the last three batsmen to add 122 runs, getting the West Indies within six runs of a spectacular comeback victory with seven balls remaining on Saturday.
He went for broke, trying to hit the last ball of the 49th over from Jimmy Neesham for six, and was caught on the long-on boundary by Trent Boult.
“Obviously heartbreaking to get so close but not get over the line,” said Brathwaite, who hit 25 runs off the 48th over to get West Indies into a winning position, “but also giving thanks for the performance — even getting the team into the position we got into.”
New Zealand’s reward for cool heads for the third time in the tournament was top spot in the standings, one point above defending champion Australia.
Boult had a big hand in the win, taking two key catches — he also caught Chris Gayle in the deep for 87 — and took four wickets as New Zealand bowled out West Indies for 286.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson’s 148 and 160-run partnership with Ross Taylor was also pivotal, helping New Zealand rally to 291-8 after losing both openers for first-ball ducks in the first over.
“I thought we were in a, obviously, very good position. But for Carlos to come out and do that as cleanly as he did, pure hitting . . . I’m going to say that was pretty cool to watch,” Boult said. “Great game, great for the tournament.
“To come to that close and be on the right side of it is, of course, a very good feeling.”
New Zealand appeared to have the game in hand with West Indies reeling at 164-7 in the 27th over. But in yet another wild momentum swing, Brathwaite’s cameo contained five sixes and nine boundaries and took the match to the wire.
He sank to his knees when he saw Boult hold the catch in the deep.
The Old Trafford match started and finished dramatically.
Sheldon Cottrell gave West Indies the best possible start by removing both openers for first-ball ducks in the first over.
He trapped Martin Guptill lbw on the first delivery and four balls later had Colin Munro caught behind, as the New Zealanders became just the second pair of openers removed for first-ball ducks at a World Cup.
It was a wild first over that produced two wickets, 10 runs, including an all-run four, and an injury to West Indian fielder Evin Lewis.
Williamson and Taylor (69) survived that before combining to revive the innings from 7-2 with a composed partnership that gave the momentum back to New Zealand.
Three days after scoring an unbeaten 106 to usher his team to victory over South Africa with three balls to spare, Williamson was back in the thick of it against West Indies until his 153-ball innings ended when he skied a Cottrell delivery in the 47th over and was caught behind.
He has 373 runs in four innings at the tournament and has been unbeaten twice.
Cottrell finished the innings with a flourish, adding the late wickets of Tom Latham (12) and Williamson to return 4-56 from 10 overs.
He also ran out Colin de Grandhomme in the 49th over and took two catches in the 50th to leave an indelible mark on the game.
New Zealand’s opening bowler also struck twice early, with Boult removing Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran before Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer (54) combined in a 122-run third wicket partnership.
It was Hetmyer’s dismissal, bowled by Ferguson in the 23rd over, that triggered a middle-order collapse. Ferguson had Jason Holder caught behind next ball as West Indies slipped to 142-4.
Brathwaite blocked the hat trick ball, and then had to juggle partners as wickets keep falling around him.
Gayle had plenty of reprieves as he plundered 87 from 84 balls, dropped on 15 and then twice in the outfield on 58 and 59 in the 18th over from Mitchell Santner. But he didn’t have quite enough to clear the boundary when he drove de Grandhomme down the ground and Boult took the catch a meter inside the boundary.
When Boult returned to dismiss Ashley Nurse and injured opener Lewis, the West Indies was 162-7, having lost 5-22 in 28 deliveries and just about any chance of recovering the match. Brathwaite and Roach added 47 for the eighth wicket, and Cottrell (15) and Oshane Thomas (0) hung around. Brathwaite plundered 25 in the 48th over off Neesham to make for a memorable finish.
West Indies still has a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs, but faces second-ranked India next.