New Zealand return to World Cup summit despite Brathwaite’s stunning century
The West Indies all-rounder took his side to the brink of an astonishing win.
Carlos Brathwaite almost engineered another unlikely triumph for the West Indies but fell agonisingly short against New Zealand, who moved to the top of the World Cup standings after a thrilling five-run win.
Brathwaite, who rose to prominence with a barrage of sixes against England in the 2016 World Twenty20 final, came to the crease amid a cluster of wickets falling as the Windies lurched to 164 for seven in pursuit of 292.
But under the Old Trafford floodlights, Brathwaite bludgeoned nine fours and five sixes in a scarcely-believable 80-ball hundred, only to hole out to Trent Boult in the deep as the Windies were all out for 286.
The all-rounder sank to his knees in despair after being dismissed for 101, his maiden international hundred in vain as the West Indies slipped to a fourth defeat of the tournament, which almost certainly ends their interest.
The Kiwis, meanwhile, were given an almighty scare after Trent Boult’s four for 30 followed Kane Williamson shepherding his side to 291 for eight with a masterful 148 from 154 balls on a challenging surface.
It was the New Zealand captain’s second ton in the space of four days after orchestrating their win over South Africa – although Brathwaite’s effort rendered the knock a lesser headline.
The broad-shouldered all-rounder found willing support in Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas but did the bulk of the scoring, taking 24 of the 25 runs in the 48th over off Matt Henry.
Just as it seemed he would achieve the unthinkable, another big swipe that would have sealed the unlikeliest of successes off Jimmy Neesham found only the hands of Boult, who took the catch and stopped his momentum taking him over the boundary.
The end of a dramatic day matched the start after New Zealand were asked to bat first, Cottrell unfurling his salute celebration twice in his opening over after accounting for Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, both of whom were dismissed for a golden duck.
In the midst of a chaotic beginning, Windies opener Evin Lewis exited after injuring his hamstring and did not reappear for the rest of New Zealand’s innings, coming out to bat later at eight and registering a three-ball duck.
At that stage it was the only setback for the Windies as the experienced hands of Williamson and Taylor led the rebuilding efforts, adopting a cautious approach on a pitch where timing was proving particularly problematic.
Neither offered a chance in a low-risk salvo, Williamson bringing up his half-century – the 10th time he has reached 50 or more in his last 11 one-day internationals in England and Wales – off 75 balls.
Taylor followed Williamson to the milestone off the very next ball but became bogged down and, as he sought to release some of the pressure, could not clear mid-off to perish at the hands of Gayle, ending a 160-run stand.
Williamson, though, had started to push on and went to three figures off 124 balls, pulling a rank legside delivery from the otherwise miserly Kemar Roach for his eighth four.
He dismissively pulled Cottrell over deep midwicket for the first six of the innings in the 44th over, but the bowler would have the last laugh en route to figures of four for 56 after Williamson top edged a pull.
James Neesham’s cameo of 28 from 23 balls pushed New Zealand just short of 300, a total that seemed competitive and looked decisive when Boult bowled Shai Hope via a thick inside edge and had Nicholas Pooran caught behind.
But, as the New Zealand seamers struggled with their lengths – either too full or too short – Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer found or cleared the boundary rope with alarming regularity.
Gayle eschewed the circumspection of Williamson and Taylor which meant he was dropped three times, including twice in the deep in the space of four balls off Mitch Santner.
He would eventually hole out to Boult at long-on after Hetmyer had been bowled by a Lockie Ferguson slower ball that seemed to keep low, the start of a slump that would see the Windies collapse from 142 for two to 164 for seven.
Momentum seemed to be firmly with the Kiwis but Brathwaite produced one of the most memorable innings of the tournament, with a series of clean hits taking the Windies closer to the target.
At 245 for nine, New Zealand once again were in the ascendancy but Brathwaite refused to surrender, absorbing most of the strike and taking the match to the wire, only to fall at the last after picking out Boult at long-on.