NORTH SOUND, Antigua -- The West Indies hardly broke a sweat as they brushed aside Zimbabwe by eight wickets in their opening Twenty20 International here on Saturday.
Chasing an inadequate 131 for victory, the T20 World champions were propelled by opener Lendl Simmons who struck a six-laden, unbeaten 63 to see them home off the first ball of the 17th over at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
He faced 49 balls and struck one four and six sixes, putting on 85 in an unbroken third wicket stand with all-rounder Dwayne Bravo whose 38 came from 30 balls and included three fours and a six.
Pacer Chris Mpofu was the standout Zimbabwean bowler, taking two for 14 from four accurate overs.
The victory gave West Indies a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Winning the toss and batting, Zimbabwe lost early wickets up front and needed a 60-run fourth wicket partnership off 62 balls between Malcolm Waller (49) and Craig Ervine (34), to restore respectability to the total.
They were unsettled by fast bowler Tino Best who finished with three for 18 while medium pacer Dwayne Bravo (2-16) and off-spinner Sunil Narine (2-17), picked up two wickets apiece.
Vusi Sibana was shaping up well with three fours in 13 off 12 balls before upper-cutting Best to Simmons at third man at 16 for one at the end of the third over.
With one run added in the next over, captain Brendan Taylor attempted a reverse sweep at leg-spinner Samuel Badree off the third ball he faced and edged behind without scoring.
Hamilton Masakadza, who made nine, clobbered Best over square for six but two balls later was brilliantly caught by Kieron Pollard, jumping high to his left at point to haul in a savage cut one-handed.
Tottering at 28 for three, Waller and Ervine gave Zimbabwe hope in a near run-a-ball partnership which revived the innings.
Waller struck four fours and two sixes – both off captain Darren Sammy’s medium pace in the 17th over which cost 18 runs – while Ervine faced 39 balls and counted five boundaries.
Narine out-foxed Ervine in the 16th over to have him stumped but Waller carried on in a 31-run, fifth wicket stand with Chamu Chibhabha (8) to see Zimbabwe past three figures.
Once Waller was bowled by Narine at the end of the 18th over, giving himself room to hit though the off-side, the innings slumped with the last 12 deliveries yielding three wickets for 12 runs.
In reply, West Indies were away quickly as Johnson Charles slammed 26 from 14 balls with six fours in posting 30 off 23 balls for the first wicket with Simmons.
The aggressive Charles slammed five consecutive fours off seamer Kyle Jarvis’s second over, the third of the innings which cost 21 runs but perished in the next over, lbw to one from Mpofu that jagged back.
Stylish left-hander Darren Bravo (0) lasted just four balls before being lured into a pull and top edging a quick one from Mpofu to Chibhabha at mid-on at 46 for two in the sixth over.
Zimbabwe then had a golden opportunity to rattle West Indies further when Dwayne Bravo, on four, ventured from his crease in search of a single and was sent back by Simmons.
Chibhabha’s throw from short point found Bravo well short of his crease but wicketkeeper Taylor fumbled the take, handing the batsman a lifeline.
That proved to be Zimbabwe’s last look-in as both Simmons and Bravo attacked, to erase any doubts about the result.
Simmons twice deposited young leg-spinner Tinotenda Mutombodzi over long-on in the fifth over before repeating the feat off Natsai Mushangwe, in the leg-spinner’s third over which cost 18 runs.
Not to be left out, Bravo also lofted Mushangwe over cover for boundaries before stylishly striking off-spinner Prosper Utseya inside-out over wide long-of for six.
Fittingly though, it was Simmons who ended the match, smashing a full toss from the unfortunate Jarvis straight down the ground for the maximum.
V Sibanda c Simmons b Best 13
H Masakadza c Pollard b Best 9
*+B Taylor c wkp Ramdin b Badree 0
C Ervine st Ramdin b Narine 34
M Waller b Narine 49
C Chibhabha b Best 8
T Mutombodzi c Russell b DJ Bravo 2
P Utseya c Russell b DJ Bravo 2
N Mushangwe not out 5
K Jarvis not out 0
Extras (lb4, w4) 8
TOTAL (8 wkts, 20 overs) 130
Did not bat: C Mpofu
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Sibanda, 3 overs), 2-17 (Taylor, 3.4), 3-28 (Masakadza, 4.5), 4-88 (Ervine, 15.1), 5-119 (Waller, 18), 6-119 (Chibhabha, 18.1), 7-124 (Mutombodzi, 19.1), 8-126 (Utseya, 19.4)
Bowling: Best 4-0-18-3 (w2), Badree 4-0-27-1, Sammy 4-0-34-0 (w2), Narine 4-0-17-2, DJ Bravo 2-0-16-2, Russell 1-0-6-0, Pollard 1-0-8-0.
J Charles lbw b Mpofu 26
L Simmons not out 63
DM Bravo c Chibhabha b Mpofu 0
DJ Bravo not out 38
Extras (w4) 4
TOTAL (2 wkts, 16.1 overs) 131
To bat: K Pollard, +D Ramdin, *D Sammy, A Russell, S Narine, T Best, S Badree.
Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Charles, 3.5 overs), 2-46 (DM Bravo, 5.5)
Bowling: Jarvis 3.1-0-39-0, Mpofu 4-0-14-2 (w2), Mutombodzi 2-0-20-0 (w1), Utseya 4-0-25-0 (w1) Mushangwe 3-0-33-0.
Result: West Indies won by eight wickets.
Series: West Indies lead two-match series 1-0.
Man-of-the-Match: Lendl Simmons.
Umpires: P Nero, J Wilson; TV – N Duguid