Before I was born, my father was a rally car driver, who had some modest success. He was never going to be a Juha Kankkunen or a Sebastian Loeb but he still knew the basics of driving a car faster than most people should drive on windy, bumpy, unsealed roads. When he taught me to drive, he emphasised a few things.
First of all, you don’t skip gears going up. You can go from fourth gear to second gear, but never from second gear to fourth gear. You might stall.
On Saturday, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson accelerated through the gears well after the initial shock of losing both openers for 0. From ball 10 to ball 50, Williamson scored 20 runs and Taylor scored 24. They were careful, and waited until the bad balls came before starting to play their attacking shots.
Then they started to move around the crease, to make it easier to manipulate the ball. Taylor started coming down the wicket, to mess with Holder’s length. Williamson started moving across the crease, either backing away or walking in front slightly, to allow him to access the square of the gap of the wicket. They still were not playing many big shots, but they did start to accelerate. In the next 30 balls that each of them faced, they both scored 27 runs. They worked their way up to the speed that they wanted to go at.
In the West Indies innings, they started even slower. After 5 overs they were 9/1. Then, 2 balls later, Gayle decided to attack. His next sequence of deliveries were: 7 balls, all attacked. One six. One four, one played and missed, one taken on the body, one edged into the ground, one mistimed to a fielder and then one dropped.
He tried to attack every ball, and he tried jumping to fifth gear without going through second, third or fourth. He was just lucky that Trent Boult (who is normally impeccable in the outfield) put him down.
Sensible cricket would have been to go a bit slower, be a little more deliberate about which shots to play and which to keep in the bag. But instead, he decided to attack everything.
Another lesson that my father taught me was to never change up a gear on a corner or a bump in the road. It means that you might not be able to stay in control if there’s something unexpected ahead.
When Taylor was dismissed, effectively it was the turning point for the New Zealand innings. A new player had come to the crease, and there’s always a little fear that “one brings two.” So Williamson changed down a gear briefly.
He and Latham took their time, before Williamson started accelerating again. He went from 66(91) to 99(119) a strike rate of just under 120.
After a little stall trying to get to 100, he then went from 103 (124) to 123(140) – a strike rate of 120 – then to 147(150) at a strike rate of 240.
He started slowly. And slowed down again when Latham came in, but accelerated until the point where he was scoring at a similar rate to what Colin de Grandhomme would score at when he came in. He went through the gears, and built his innings nicely.
West Indies had a similar turning point in their innings. Shimron Hetmyer had just been dismissed, and immediately after him Jason Holder departed (the third first ball duck in the match). What did Gayle do? He attacked every ball of the next over. He did hit a 4 and a 2, but he also had an edge just bounce in front and a couple of mistimed balls to fielders. The final ball he mishit completely and was caught in the deep. He had already taken 6 off the over. He had already been troubled on more than one occasion, but he still tried to collar a ball from de Grandhomme. West Indies had collapsed from 142/2 to 152/5.
Another important thing that my father told me was that there were times where it was better to drive smoothly to preserve petrol. Especially on some of the longer rallies, balancing out petrol consumption was really important.
West Indies ran out of petrol. They accelerated too quickly, and it cost them their wickets. Hetmyer got a good ball, but he played a horrible shot. Gayle attacked when there was almost no benefit in it. Then Brathwaite, Roach and Cottrell showed them how it should be done. They went at a smoother pace early on, then accelerated later.
This match was one that the West Indies should have won. New Zealand made enough mistakes that the game was there for West Indies to take, but instead they focused too much on attacking too soon, and as a result, ran out of petrol.
Carlos Brathwaite played a remarkable inning. One that almost saw West Indies home. Perhaps if his top order had played a bit more sensibly, his heroics would not have been in vain.
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