The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup started in dramatic fashion as West Indies defeated hosts New Zealand by three runs in a last over thriller.
After New Zealand won the toss and opted to bowl, West Indies set a target of 260. The star of the Stafanie Taylor-led side was Hayley Matthews, who was asked to open the innings in the tournament opener. Scoring 119 off 128, Matthews was supported by Taylor (30), Shemaine Campbell (20) and Chedean Nation (36).
Sophie Devine, boosted by dropped opportunities and botched run-out opportunities, appeared to be on her way to leading her team to victory before she was dismissed for 108 in the 44th over. Katey Martin (44) and Jess Kerr (25) kept their side in the hunt.
Deandra Dottin was handed the ball in the 49th over with New Zealand needing six off six. She claimed the wickets of the well-set Martin and Kerr before Fran Jonas succumbed to a last ball run-out.
Makeshift opener Matthews’s career-best 119 led Windies to 259 for nine and she then took two for 41 with the ball to inspire her side to glory as the competition got off to a thrilling start.
Sophie Devine did her utmost to steer New Zealand to what would have been the highest-ever successful World Cup chase with an excellent century of her own but her departure with 45 required saw the pendulum swing back in West Indies’ direction.
Excellent cameos from Katey Martin (44) and Jess Kerr (25) kept the game on a knife-edge and the White Ferns needed six from the final over but Deandra Dottin, bowling her first over of the innings, dismissed both before a run out sealed the outcome.
The West Indies had been put in by the hosts upon losing the toss but raced out the traps.
Dottin set the tone, cutting the opening ball of the tournament for four over cover in a first over costing 12, only for Lea Tahuhu to soon earn revenge when a leading edge was held by Jess Kerr at mid-off.
Matthews took up the assault, cracking three boundaries from what remained of the over – nine arrived in the first 27 deliveries in all.
Kycia Knight’s departure saw captain Stafanie Taylor join Matthews and the pair took their side into three figures during a composed 66-run partnership which was broken when Taylor was caught behind down the leg-side for 30.
That provided Tahuhu with her second scalp and she could have had a third when new batter Shemaine Campbell was put down by Brooke Halliday at deep square leg with just four to her name.
Having survived that let-off, her fortune ran out on 20 when a successful lbw review confirmed Amelia Kerr’s googly would have gone on to hit the stumps to leave West Indies on 165 for four.
At the other end, Matthews continued to accumulate despite pulling up with an apparent hamstring injury in the 27th over, carving Fran Jonas for consecutive boundaries shortly afterwards.
Chedean Nation kept up the momentum with regular boundaries before Matthews reached her century at the start of the 42nd over, celebrating in style by lofting the only six of the innings over long-off four balls later.
An inventive scoop for four followed as the opener looked to accelerate but her magnificent knock came to an end on 119 when her first miscue landed safely in the hands of Hannah Rowe on the long-off boundary to provide Jess Kerr with her second wicket.
Tahuhu took her third when Nation (36) top-edged a hook behind as regular wickets prevented a late surge from the West Indies but they took 11 from the final over, which finished with Anisa Mohammed being run out, to finish on a competitive 259 for nine.
New Zealand’s innings had a tamer beginning than that of their opponents as Devine and Suzie Bates started watchfully, the former whipping the first boundary through deep mid-wicket from the first ball of the fourth over.
She lost her opening partner in unfortunate circumstances from the next delivery, Bates run out backing up after Chinelle Henry deflected a straight drive on to the stumps, and the hosts’ progress remained cautious through the remainder of a powerplay which finished with the scoreboard reading 41 for one.
Just six had been added to that total when Matthews’ memorable day continued, the centurion trapping Amelia Kerr in front with just her second delivery.
Devine’s presence was becoming increasingly vital and she should have fallen on 37 only to be spilled at mid-on by Shamilia Connell, a drop that looked all the more costly when the opener pulled Mohammed through deep mid-wicket to move to her half-century.
Amy Satterthwaite was also put down, substitute Cherry-Ann Fraser letting the ball slip through her grasp at deep square leg, before Windies skipper Taylor missed a presentable chance to run out her opposite number on 66.
The breakthrough the Courtney Walsh-coached side craved arrived courtesy of Mohammed, who pinned Satterthwaite’s pads with a full delivery to end a third-wicket stand worth 76, and the spinner was celebrating once more when Tahuhu was bowled by her next delivery.
The 30-over mark arrived with the White Ferns requiring 125 more for victory and plenty of hopes were pinned on their captain, who received another life when Henry put down a top-edged sweep.
Devine lost further company when Maddy Green chipped to mid-wicket and Halliday was caught at slip but she continued untroubled and brought up her sixth ODI century from 117 balls, keeping the celebration muted due to the bigger prize at stake.
With the equation left at 45 needed from six overs, Windies eventually held on to a chance to dismiss Devine – and it was worth the wait.
Henry dived to her left to take an excellent return catch and see the back of the skipper for a sublime 108 but Martin and Jess Kerr were in no mood to go down without a fight.
Consecutive boundaries from Martin left New Zealand needing six from the final over and Taylor turned to Dottin, who trapped Martin lbw before Kerr spooned to mid-off.
With four needed from two, out strode 17-year-old Jonas, who was run out at the non-striker’s end from the penultimate delivery of an extraordinary match to spark jubilant Windies celebrations.
After the game, captain Taylor revealed how Dottin asked for the ball before the last over and went on to get the job done.
“Selman was supposed to bowl the last over. But she was like ‘skip, I want the ball... give me the ball’ and I was like OK, you and coach will discuss this after. I will give you the ball, do your thing,” said Taylor.
Hayley Mathews, who was adjudged the player of the match, added: “Just the fight we showed. To beat a team like New Zealand, to beat them in their home is a great achievement. The fight that we showed was immense. For me to come out here and put on a performance in the opening game, and win the game, feels really good. Hopefully we can carry the momentum through the tournament.”
West Indies beat New Zealand at Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, by three runs.
West Indies 259/9 in 50 overs (Hayley Matthews 119, Chedean Nation 36; Lea Tahuhu 3/57, Jess Kerr 2/43)
New Zealand 256 in 50 overs (Sophie Devine 108, Katey Martin 44; Hayley Matthews 2/41, Deandra Dottin 2/2)
Player of the Match: Hayley Matthews (West Indies)
(With inputs from ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.)