West Indies getting into grove

A no-contest is never the best way to prepare for a critical game but the West Indies happily to take the two points from its massive 215-run victory over the hapless team from the Netherlands in a group B match in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 at the Ferozshah Kotla ground in Delhi on Monday.

As Darren Sammy’s team heads to Mirpur to take on Bangladesh on March 4 in a game that will have a direct bearing on which the two sides can progress to the round of eight along with India, South Africa and England, the West Indies will be well aware that Bangladesh can be a greater adversary at home than the Netherlands were on a flat deck here.

Captain Darren Sammy had spoken of how his team would come to the park with a different approach – drawing inspiration from the injured all-rounder Dwayne Bravo – and it was up to the squad to back that up. On that count, the West Indies scored very high, even if its fans would have expected more from the side.

For one, the West Indies batsmen will have to combine more aggression through the innings with application and resolve than they did when making 330 for eight in 50 overs. And despite a fine show by paceman Kemar Roach (six for 27 including a hat-trick) and left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn (three for 28), their bowlers did not quite shut out the opposition, letting the Dutch recover from 35 for five 56 for six to make 115.

Roach bowled fast and straight to claim two wickets with the new ball and came back after Tom Cooper (55 not out, 72 balls, nine fours) and Mudassar Bukhari (24) doubled the score to 112 to claim four wickets in the space of six deliveries, including the hat-trick to end the Dutch resistance.

Earlier, the West Indies had an extended batting practice session against some friendly Dutch bowling on a flat track but will be a tad disappointed that it did not go past the 350-run mark. The left-handed openers Devon Smith (53, 51 balls, nine fours) and Chris Gayle (80, 110 balls, seven fours, two sixes) adopted contrasting styles as they shared a run-a-ball century stand.

But it was Kieron Pollard (60, 27 balls, five fours, four sixes) who set the stands alight with his strokes. Having chose to familiarise the sparse crowd with the creamy floppy hat rather than the maroon helmet, Pollard’s approach was a throwback to the days when West Indian batsmen batted with gay abandon.

Earlier, the dapper Smith took on the mantle of the aggressor when Gayle appeared to search for the touch that makes him such a feared batsman. Smith showed he was keen to continue contributing to the team like he had done in the opening game while Gayle took time to get into his stride

During Gayle’s 68-run partnership with Darren Bravo (30, 38 balls, one four, two sixes), entertainment was far from the West Indies’ thoughts as it embraced consolidation. And when he freed his arms, the Netherlands bowlers and fielders felt the sting. They were relieved that he fell moments after the West Indies decided to ask for the start of Batting Powerplay.

The West Indies also had reason to be happy with the form shown by Ramnaresh Sarwan (49, 42 balls, seven fours, one six). Yet, against the Dutch attack and some ragged fielding, it would have liked to score more. For, the Netherlands bowling can, at best, be labelled honest, even if left-arm spinner Pieter Seelar returned with honourable figures of three for 45.

Having pushed England to the wall in its opening game in Nagpur, the Netherlands could have been led to believe that it could damage the West Indies’ sinking reputation. But it needed to play some good cricket to actualise that. Quite inevitably, its dreams of stopping the West Indies came to naught.