World Cup 2019: Can beleaguered West Indies rally past red-hot New Zealand?
Nicholas Pooran (L). Shimron Hetmyer and Andre Russell (R) walk off the field dejected after West Indies' seven-wicket loss to Bangladesh. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: The moment of truth is here for the West Indies. They are wounded and low on confidence. Following their seven-wicket loss to Bangladesh, a glum Jason Holder admitted West Indies face a tough task to reach the semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2019 as they need to win all their remaining games to stay alive. With three losses, it is a slim chance, but an opportunity none the less.

What a start it was for the West Indies, with their fast bowlers flooring Pakistan for 105, setting the base for a comfortable seven-wicket win. But ever since, they haven’t been able to replicate that performance, despite scoring 321 for 8 against Bangladesh. West Indies are a far better unit that this. They have a fresh, promising bowling attack and an equally fearful batting line-up. But somehow, both haven’t clicked together. (ALSO READ: Shakib, Liton take Bangladesh to epic win)

Chris Gayle and Andre Russell have missed out so far, which has put the pressure on the inexperienced middle order. Shimron Hetmyer, for all the potential he possesses, has thrown it away, while Nicholas Pooran has shades of promise. Shai Hope has scored a couple of half-centuries and remains the only hope of stability at the top of the order.

West Indies next face New Zealand and then India. Despite a tough road ahead, the West Indies looked relaxed and composed, hitting the nets two days before the match. The bowlers ran it hard and each of the recognised batsmen spent nearly 40 minutes each at the nets. However, there was no sighting of Andre Russell who was neither spotted on the ground nor the nets. As for Gayle, he had a small warm-up taking a few throwdowns before heading back.

But can the West Indies rally past Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, who remain one of the only two sides to have not tasted a defeat yet in the tournament? In the last World Cup ODI between the two sides, Martin Guptill’s unbeaten 237 in the fourth quarterfinal left a scar on the West Indies. Four year later, Guptill seems to be struggling, but the rest of the line-up looks bloody impressive. Williamson’s icy-cool century against South Africa was perhaps one of the best back-against-the-wall centuries that come to mind, whereas Ross Taylor has continued from where he’d left off 2018.

In the last two matches, New Zealand have really come into their elements, downing Afghanistan by seven wickets and playing out perhaps the most evenly-contest match of the World Cup yet against South Africa. With nine points from four games, they look set to grab a place in the semi-finals. (ALSO READ: West Indies would benefit from learning from Williamson – Clive Lloyd)

That said, West Indies have four games remaining too, and a win in each remaining game will get them to 11 points, which is what is needed for a team to qualify. With India, England and Australia not far behind from securing a knockout berth, WI’s chances may be slim, but the prospect of a win here will really boost their confidence.

What: West Indies vs New Zealand, Match 29, World Cup 2019

When: Friday, June 22

Time: 6:30 pm IST

Venue: Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester

Weather: With cool breeze and no rain interruption, a full 50-over contest is expected to be played.

Team News

West Indies

Holder confirmed during the pre-match press conference that Andre Russell will not take part against New Zealand. Fellow allrounder Carlos Brathwaite was seen having a swing in the nets on Thursday during West Indies’ only nets and should make his way into the team. The other change Holder must be pondering over is the bowling. Against Bangladesh, West Indies played five pacers, who leaked a combined 274 runs. With offspinner Ashley Nurse available, West Indies might leave out Shannon Gabriel. Another possibility is of West Indies playing an extra bowler, and Kemar Roach might come in for Darren Bravo, who’s been struggling for runs.

Probable XI: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Jason Holder (capt), 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Sheldon Cottrell, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Oshane Thomas

New Zealand

As New Zealand continue to take strides towards a semi-final berth, it might not be a bad time to finally get a game this World Cup. Southee even bowled and provided he features in the XI, Matt Henry might miss out. Ross Taylor received a blow to his finger while catching in the slips but batted for almost 40 minutes dispelling doubts over his availability.

Probable XI: 1 Colin Munro, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Matt Henry/Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult