MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - New Zealand moved to the brink of the World Cup semi-finals with a thrilling five-run victory over West Indies on Saturday after Carlos Brathwaite’s magnificent century almost produced a highly unlikely comeback win for the Caribbean side.
Needing six to win off seven balls at Old Trafford, Brathwaite attempted to grab glory with one shot but his heave over mid-on was caught by Trent Boult just inside the boundary rope, to the delight of the Kiwis and the despair of Jason Holder’s team.
Chasing 292, after skipper Kane Williamson’s fine 148 for New Zealand, West Indies were well poised at 130 for two after 20 overs but collapsed following the loss of Shimron Hetmyer (54) and Chris Gayle, who made a chancy 87 including six sixes.
With Holder, Ashley Nurse and Evin Lewis, hampered by a muscle injury, managing just one run between them, it was a familiar tale of fragility from the West Indies middle order.
A 47-run partnership between Brathwaite and Kemar Roach offered consolidation and a little hope before the latter was snaffled up by Tom Latham off Matt Henry.
Sheldon Cottrell then provided some support to Brathwaite, his 15 contributing to a 34-run stand that kept his side in the game before he was bowled by Lockie Ferguson.
With Oshane Thomas a true number 11, only the wildest optimist among the Caribbean supporters could have imagined what was to come — but 25 runs came in the 47th over, with Brathwaite blasting Henry for three consecutive sixes followed by a four.
The power and confidence of Brathwaite’s hitting brought back memories of his sensational match-winning performance in the 2016 World Twenty20 final, when he hit four sixes in a row off England’s Ben Stokes.
Extraordinarily, he had only scored one half-century in his previous 37 ODIs before Saturday.
At Old Trafford, though, he scored every run of the 41-run, 24-ball last-wicket partnership with Thomas.
But on the final ball of the penultimate over, Brathwaite went for the big hit, only for his effort off Jimmy Neesham to find Boult’s hands.
As the New Zealanders celebrated, the West Indies batsman collapsed to his knees.
The win moved unbeaten New Zealand to the top of the table with 11 points and left West Indies staring at likely elimination, stranded in seventh place with three points.
“Getting so close I guess it does make it tougher to take but when you look throughout the entire game, there were one or two areas where we fell down,” said Holder.
“Credit to the guys for the way we fought. I can’t fault the effort but we have got to seize one or two moments better.”
Williamson praised the effort made by Brathwaite and the West Indies tail.
“The West Indies side is incredibly dangerous, even down their order. So credit to them, but credit to our side for getting a competitive total. It’s a great game of cricket, good to be on the winning side. It’s been a great learning curve for us,” he said.
Williamson’s innings could be forgotten, given the drama that followed, but it was a true captain’s knock as he held the innings together with intelligence, poise and application.
After Holder put the Black Caps in to bat, left-armer Cottrell removed both openers in his first over — trapping Martin Guptill lbw after review with the first ball of the day and clean bowling Colin Munro.
But the classy Williamson set about constructing a patient 160-run partnership with Ross Taylor (69), with the New Zealand skipper bringing up his second successive World Cup ton with a well-placed four off a long hop from Kemar Roach.
Williamson’s 148, his highest one-day international score, ended in the 47th over when he skied the ball to wicketkeeper Shai Hope off Cottrell.
Pace bowler Cottrell, who took three catches and delivered a run-out, ended with figures of 4-56.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Lawrence