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Ferguson, Neesham shine as New Zealand start with a win

NZ v WI, 1st T20I, report

Kieron Pollard's blitz went in vain as Jimmy Neesham (48*), Devon Conway (41) and Mitchell Santner (31*) joined hands in the run-chase to give New Zealand a five-wicket win in the first T20I.


Chasing 176 in 16 overs, New Zealand were 63/4 at one point before debutant Conway and Neesham resurrected the innings with a rapid partnership of 77 in 35 balls.

Conway showed excellent composure amidst the quick wickets lost, while Neesham started off with a bang, hitting two fours off his first two balls. He went on to hammer 23 runs in a Kesrick Williams over to bring the required run-rate down.

Pollard's golden arm accounted for Conway, who made a handy 41 from 29 balls, but Neesham had company in the form of Santner, who started his innings with a six off the third ball he faced.

The duo were helped by an ill-disciplined over from Keemo Paul, who sent down four no-balls in a 14-run over that brought the equation down to 15 needed off 12 balls. Santner smoked a couple of sixes in the last two overs to seal the game for New Zealand with four balls to spare.

Earlier, New Zealand won the toss and opted to bowl first with all the rain around. The visitors began their innings on a positive note as Brandon King and Andre Fletcher smashed 55 runs in three overs in between rain breaks.

Few would have predicted what unfolded shortly after that. Ferguson, fresh off an IPL stint with Kolkata Knight Riders, picked up two wickets in his opening over before Tim Southee added two more in the next to reduce West Indies to 58/4.

Andre Fletcher was the first to go in the frenzy, missing a quick, full ball from Ferguson in the fourth over. Three balls later, new man Shimron Hetmyer was out looking to heave Ferguson.

The procession continued in the next over as King slashed Southee straight to third man. Rovman Powell didn't wait too long either before unleashing a pull, only to be caught at fine leg for a duck.

Despite losing four wickets without adding a run, the Windies were casual in their approach as Nicholas Pooran missed a full toss from Ferguson off the first ball of the sixth over. From what appeared to be a daunting start, Windies were soon in danger of being bowled out within 10 overs, but skipper Pollard, alongside Fabian Allen, pulled things back for the visitors.

At the halfway mark, as rain intervened for a third time, West Indies were 96/5 and hopeful of their skipper teeing off. The game was reduced to 16 overs an innings with the third break in play.

Pollard, aware that the big hitting early on had West Indies in a good position despite the flurry of wickets, unfurled his shots soon after the break. He smashed Neesham for 23 runs, including three sixes, in the 12th over to race into the forties.

Kieron Pollard made his highest T20I score to lift West Indies from an abyss
Kieron Pollard made his highest T20I score to lift West Indies from an abyss

Ferguson came back to complete his five-wicket haul with another over that saw two wickets fall. Pollard, however, helped Windies to an impressive total, stealing 11 and 23 runs in the last two overs to take them to 180.

A revised target of 176 in 16 overs appeared massive for the Kiwis and they were dealt an early blow when Sheldon Cottrell had Martin Guptill in the very first over. Tim Seifert too departed early, but Glenn Phillips started off with a flurry of boundaries to race to 22 in 6 balls. However, Oshane Thomas sent him back in the final over of the Powerplay to put West Indies in front.

Ross Taylor was run-out for a duck three balls later by Allen's spectacular effort in the field, making up for his 22-run over early on, but New Zealand found themselves back in the game with the Conway-Neesham stand, before Santner's 18-ball 31* sealed the deal for the hosts.Β 

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