A thrashing it was

CHRIS GAYLE, the Man of the Match.-PTI

Zimbabwe was expected to lose to the West Indies, but it SURRENDERED so meekly that the match was over in the blink of an eye. A report by G. VISWANATH.

The West Indies was the firm favourite to clinch the ICC Champions Trophy match against Zimbabwe at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Ahmedabad. Predictable was the outcome, though not the manner in which Brian Lara's team executed it, thrashing the African team by nine wickets. First the West Indies skittled out Zimbabwe for 85 and then crossed the finishing line in 86 balls. Much was expected of the Zimbabwe batsmen, what with the Champions Trophy being regarded second only to the World Cup.

Their utter failure provided an easy victory for the West Indies, its 19th win against Zimbabwe in 20 matches; one match did not have a result.

The Zimbabwe batsmen were clueless, especially after the Jamaican Jerome Taylor and the left arm seamer Ian Bradshaw had done sufficient damage in their first spells. Tafadzwa Mufambisi, at the top of the order, showed some resolve, staying put for half an hour, but he fell to a delivery that climbed on him. Mufambisi had come as a substitute for the experienced Vusimuzi Sibanda.

A few shots raced to the fence in the 132 minutes that the Zimbabweans batted after winning the toss. Prosper Utseya elected to bat, but in a matter of minutes his team was in a hopeless situation. Hamilton Masakadza, who held promise some years ago, was late to bring his bat down and a Taylor delivery shot through the gap.

Apart from the West Indies seam bowling — so efficiently operated by Taylor, Bradshaw and Dwayne Smith — its fielding, notably through Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds, also contributed to the downfall of two Zimbabwe batsmen. All this happened after Smith got the extra bounce to beat the defensive bat of Stuart Matsikenyeri and bend back the off stump. And finally Chris Gayle added three more to his three-figure tally of wickets in the19 balls he bowled.

Zimbabwe's plight was far worse than one had expected it to be before the first ball was bowled. It had managed scores of 150 plus and once 250 plus in the series against the West Indies in April-May. "The Champions Trophy is fantastic for us. We get three matches to compete. We have won 40 per cent of the last 20 matches. Who knows what's in store?'' the optimistic Zimbabwe coach, Kevin Curran, had said at a press conference a day before the match. Obviously, Curran was a dejected man. He did not even turn up at the post-match press conference. Poor Utseya, who made the top score of 27, blamed his colleagues for poor shot selection.

The West Indies openers, Gayle and Chanderpaul, made a cautious start, not scoring a run off three overs — one each off Elton Chigumbura, Anthony Ireland and Edward Rainsford. Gayle then decided to cut loose and even offered a couple of chances. He made 41 off 34 balls with seven fours and a six. After his dismissal, Lara cracked 24 off 20 balls and finished the day's proceedings in style, hitting two consecutive sixes of off-spinner Utseya.

Lara was asked if he was disappointed with the kind of opposition his team faced in the first match and his reply was quite to the point. "We came here to win the game emphatically and we did that. The bowlers had to get a run and they got five-six overs under the belt and performed well.

"We did well in the field too. We wanted to express ourselves in every department of the game. It doesn't matter what the opposition was like, we went out and batted with purpose, which was important. I asked Sarwan whether I could have a knock because I didn't play in the practice game. I just wanted to hit a few balls with the middle of the bat, and I was happy to do that.''

THE SCORES

ICC Champions Trophy, Qualifying match, Zimbabwe vs West Indies, Ahmedabad, October 8, 2006. West Indies won by nine wickets.

Zimbabwe 85 in 30.1 overs (Prosper Utseya 27, Chrish Gayle three for three) lost to West Indies 90 for one in 14.2 overs (Gayle 41).