Andre Russell made a spectacular return to the West Indies team as his four-wicket haul set-up a huge win by nine wickets over New Zealand in the first Digicel One-Day International on Thursday.
Watched by family, friends and supporters in the crowd at Sabina Park, the 24-year-old seamer stole the show as he rocked New Zealand’s top order. He took three wickets with the new ball and got a fourth with his final delivery to end with 4-45 off 10 overs.
Russell’s effort limited the Black Caps to just 190-9 off their 50 overs after they were sent in to bat by captain Darren Sammy. Off-spinner Sunil Narine (2-26) and pacer Ravi Rampaul (2-42) provided excellent back-up for.
In the second half of the match, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith batted with freedom as the Windies motored to 136-1 off just 24.2 overs. The Windies won with 52 balls to spare after target was adjusted to 136 off 33 overs after heavy afternoon rain accompanied by lightning and thunder caused a break in play.
Gayle, the big and powerful left-hander, made 63 not out off 57 balls with five big sixes, much to the delight of his home supporters. Smith played some superb strokes and cleared the ropes three times in an unbeaten 65 off 77 balls. The pair added an unbroken stand of 130 for the second wicket.
Russell won the Digicel Man-of-the-Match award and after play said he was thrilled with his performance in front his home crowd as well as the team’s clinical display. He added that a crucial part of the game plan was to get wickets with the new ball.
“I’m happy with the way I bowled. It felt great. It was good to come back into the team after I missed the T20 series in Florida and make an impression right away. To bowl first at Sabina Park, I knew I would get assistance from whatever moisture was in the surface,” Russell said.
“I got the opportunity to bowl the new ball and I knew I could make good use of it. I decided to run in with purpose, hit the deck hard and look for wickets. Before the match we said wickets with the new ball would be vital and my focus was on getting it right from the very start,” he said.
“I am very comfortable using the new ball. That is my role in the team and I look forward to the opportunity. We have a good balance in the team so anyone can start the attack ... we have several options when it comes to the new ball. It is all about what the team requires at that time.”
Thursday’s performance was Russell’s fourth four-wicket haul in just 23 One-Day Internationals. It was his second four-for at Sabina Park, following the career-best 4-35 in the victory over India a year ago.
“After I came back from England I came here, did my homework, spent some time with my family, regrouped and got ready for this series. I came out today and wanted to do it for my home crowd. I will have another re-think and come back ready for business on Saturday.”
The second Digicel One-Day International will be played at Sabina Park on Saturday. First ball is 9.30 am (10.30 am Eastern Caribbean Time).