Williamson career-best lifts New Zealand to 291/8 against West Indies
Kane Williamson notched up his highest ODI score. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: The legend of Kane Williamson continues to grow. Three days after his magnificent century shepherded New Zealand’s successful chase of 241 against South Africa, the skipper made it two out of two to lead his side to 291/8 against West Indies. (ALSO READ: West Indies vs New Zealand, Live Blog)

Williamson had walked out when the score read 0/1, when Sheldon Cottrell had removed Martin Guptill for a first-ball duck, and in the same over, dealt another first-ball duck to Colin Munro. At 7 for 2, Williamson and Ross Taylor led a spirited New Zealand fight back putting on 160 runs for the third wicket.

Taylor was looking on course to a three-digit score of his own, before he ended up not connecting a delivery from Chris Gayle as well as he’d have liked to. But Williamson continued to dominate the West Indies en route to his highest-ever score before falling, and aided by a lower order contribution from James Neesham, New Zealand were lifted.

Jason Holder won the toss and surprisingly put New Zealand in. But with Cottrell taking out New Zealand’s openers, West Indies couldn’t have asked for a better start. Contrary to West Indies’ ploy of bouncing out the opposition, Cottrell kept it full, with plenty of initial swing on offer. The movement was enough for the ball to strike Guptill on his back pad first ball of the match. Initially declared not out, West Indies reviewed and the decision was overturned. Off came the salute, and West Indies’ tormentor from the previous World Cup was back first ball.

New Zealand’s decision to stick to Munro and not Henry Nicholls received another setback with the left-hander falling to Cottrell first ball, bowled. With the two out-of-form batsmen back early, New Zealand were steadied by the two most in-form batsmen. Williamson and Tylor batted without much fuss, and the West Indies bowling unit which looked quite threatening till then, was made to look pretty ordinary. Both batsmen blunted the new ball, saw off the swing before bringing out the shots.

New Zealand were 30 for 2 after the first Powerplay – the lowest score after 10 overs in the World Cup. In those 60 deliveries, West Indies bowled a staggering 44 dot balls. The next 10 produced 51. But between overs 20 to 30 is where Taylor and Williamson took off, scoring 63, but more importantly, not allowing West Indies bowlers to settle.

Through some exquisite strokeplay, the 50-partnership was raised. Taylor used his hoicks against the pacers, especially Holder who erred plenty in length. Williamson was exemplary with drives, creaming boundaries off almost every Windies pacer. Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell’s replacement went for 20 off three, with Williamson taking him on and slashing him through backward point. West Indies, sensing the need to get a breakthrough, brought back Kemar Roach with an attacking field placement – a short cover for Williamson and a short midwicket for Taylor. But both played through it and moved along nicely. Between overs 21 and 30, West Indies bowled pretty much everyone – off spin of Ashley Nurse and the pace of Roach, Oshane Thomas, Brathwaite and Cottrell. But Taylor and Williamson remained unfazed by pretty much everything.

In a matter of two balls, Williamson and Taylor brought up their respective fifties. The New Zealand skipper through a single, his partner with a crunching straight drive. With the partnership looking set to cross 200, West Indies struck out of the blue, through Gayle, the biggest entertainer in world cricket. Taylor gave himself room but found Holder at mid-on as the stadium erupted at the sight of Gayle’s celebration.

But Williamson carried on to dish another fine knock. He sweetly timed a cover drive to enter the 90s and brought up his 13th ODI century putting away a poor ball from Roach. With Tom Latham, Williamson added 43 off 38 before the left-hander returned a catch to Cottrell.

With nine overs remaining and New Zealand just crossing 200, they had set themselves nicely for a late push, which was assured by Williamson and Neesham. They scored 33 off three overs, but in between that, Shai Hope grassed a chance of Williamson. It didn’t hurt West Indies much as Cottrell returned to eventually remove Williamson to a top edge – the first time he’s been dismissed in three innings – but not before the skipper had gone past his previous best of 145. Cottrell, who finished with 4/56 had Colin de Grandhomme run out and took a couple of catches to remove Mitchell Santner and Neesham.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 291 for 8 (Kane Williamson 148, Ross Taylor 69; Sheldon Cottrell 4/56) against West Indies.