Gordon Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer
LAUDERHILL, Florida:The West Indies shrugged off the effects of a losing tour to England in commanding style yesterday to jump start their 'home' series against New Zealand with a 56-run win in the opening game of two Twenty20 matches here, the first ever International Cricket Council-sanctioned tour games to be played in the United States.
Led by brilliant half-centuries from Man of the Match Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, the West Indies bludgeoned the Kiwis' attack to pile up 209 runs for two wickets off their allotted 20 overs. The pair's unbroken third-wicket stand was worth 108.
Opener Gayle racked up 85 off 52 balls, including seven fours and five sixes. Pollard smashed 63 off 29 balls with five fours and five sixes. Opener Dwayne Smith chipped in with 17 off 13 balls, while Johnson Charles, who put on 74 with Gayle for the second wicket, managed 24 off 29.
New Zealand, batting two short, managed 153 all out off 18.3 overs in their turn on the excellent Central Broward Regional Park wicket. Rob Nicol topscored with 32 and Tim Southee got 23.
New Zealand captain and senior batsman Ross Taylor retired hurt with an injured shoulder after scoring 10. Spinner Ronnie Hira suffered a dislocated middle finger fielding and did not bat, while Jacob Oram strained his right knee.
The West Indies also received a scare. Pollard hurt his right shoulder attempting a catch, left the field but returned later in the innings. He will be evaluated before today's second T20 here, starting at 1 p.m. Jamaica time.
Hira is out for today's game, according to New Zealand's assistant coach Treat Woodhill, while participation by Taylor and Oram will be based on further evaluation.
It was a pleasing performance by the West Indies yesterday, part of a carnival atmosphere amped up by a sold-out crowd of some 16,000 basking in brilliant sunshine and engulfed by thumping Caribbean music.
"We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves," said West Indies coach Ottis Gibson.
The West Indies, sent in to bat, got off to a rocket start. Dwayne Smith hit two sixes in the first over. But he swung across the line to Doug Bracewell and was bowled for 17.
Gayle was let off in the eighth over when Kane Williamson put down a difficult catch running in off the boundary, part of a series of mishaps in the field for New Zealand. He and Pollard would benefit from other near misses. Gayle, after a cautious start, hoisted Hira high over midwicket for six, then smashed the next delivery straight back to the spinner, injuring his hand.
West Indies brought up their first 100 runs in the 13th over. But Charles, going after Williamson, sliced a catch to Oram to end the second-wicket partnership.
Pollard immediately got to work, smashing the bowlers all over the picturesque ground.
Gayle brought up his half-century off 40 balls, then blasted two more fours off Bracewell.
West Indies' 150 came up in the 17th over. Pollard ticked off his half-century by launching another towering six off Bracewell.
"We know Pollard is a dangerous hitter," said Gibson.
Gayle blasted three consecutive sixes off Bracewell to open over 18, a welcome sight for the coach.
"Chris, especially in this format, is sort of a world leader," Gibson said.
The West Indies also benefited from the Kiwi bowlers' shoddy control, which conceded 13 wides and three no-balls among 20 extras.
"We weren't executing the way we wanted to," said Woodhill.
Spinner Sunil Narine led the West Indies bowling attack with three wickets for 34 runs off four overs. Dwayne Bravo, Fidel Edwards and Darren Sammy picked up a wicket each.