NORTH SOUND, Antigua – World champions West Indies made the most of Zimbabwe’s lacklustre performance to win the final Twenty20 International by 41 runs and sweep the two-match series yesterday.
In a low-keyed encounter at the Vivian Richards Stadium, West Indies posted 158 for seven from their 20 overs, with Kieron Pollard blasting an unbeaten 45 and opener Lendl Simmons hitting 41.
Leg-spinners Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Natsai Mushangwe, both 22-year-olds, picked up two wickets apiece.
In reply, a jaded-looking Zimbabwe never seriously challenged and meandered to 117 for six off 20 overs.
The consistent Hamilton Masakadza stood tall with an unbeaten 53 from 51 balls but found no support as leg-spinner Samuel Badree damaged the top order to finish with three for 17 from four overs.
With the result, West Indies extended their winning streak in Twenty20s to seven dating back to last year’s World Championship in Sri Lanka, and have now also won ten of their last 13 games.
Opting to bat first, the hosts found themselves shackled by disciplined bowling and were dithering at 92 for four at the end of the 14th over.
Opener Johnson Charles blasted two fours in ten before losing his middle stump to fast bowler Tendai Chatara, with the score on 19 in the fourth over.
Simmons, never fluent despite striking a four and a pair of sixes off 39 balls, added 42 from 36 balls for the second wicket with Dwayne Bravo (24), to steady the innings.
Voted Man Of The Series, Simmons gathered just eight runs from his first 13 deliveries before exploding with a six over long-off off Chatara.
Bravo, meanwhile, enjoyed a huge slice of luck when he was taken at short fine leg by Masakadza on five, only for the delivery from Chatara to be no-balled. He top edged the free hit to fine leg for four.
He smacked Mushangwe for a straight six in the bowler’s second over but in attempting an encore off the next ball, skied a catch for wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor take running around to short third-man.
The innings then lost its way. Chris Barnwell was bowled by off-spinner Prosper Utseya for seven in the 13th over at 79 for three after giving himself room and missing an off-side stroke, and Simmons followed in the next over, caught at long-off off Mushangwe.
Not for the first time, Pollard entered to change the complexion of the innings, cracking three fours and sixes off just 24 balls. In one over from Chatara that bled 23 runs, he belted two sixes and two fours as the scoring picked up.
Pollard put on an entertaining 56 from just 26 balls for the fifth wicket with captain Darren Sammy, whose 19 contained two fours and a towering straight six off seamer Chris Mpofu which cleared the stands.
Once Sammy was taken in the deep with the charge on in the penultimate over bowled by Mutombodzi, West Indies never found the acceleration they wished for, as just three runs came from the final over.
Badree put the brakes on Zimbabwe’s reply, bowling Chamu Chibhabha for 13 in the fourth over, and having the classy Vusi Sibanda caught low down at point by Bravo.
In a flash, Zimbabwe slumped to 33 for three in the eighth when captain Taylor (4) nudged the easiest of catches to Sammy at cover off Badree.
Masakadza, who counted six fours, then paired with Craig Ervine (15) to put on 35 for the fourth wicket. However, the partnership consumed 33 balls and when Ervine was caught and bowled by Bravo off a skyer in the 13th over, Zimbabwe required nearly 13 runs an over, a mountain that proved too tall to climb. (CMC)