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Cricket : Windies defy Gajanand hundred to win opener

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CMC):

Guyanese Gajanand Singh returned to haunt West Indies with a counter-attacking maiden One-Day International hundred, but veteran Johnson Charles headlined a quartet of half-century makers as the Caribbean side coasted to a 39-run victory over United States.

In their opening Group A game of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers yesterday, West Indies rallied to a competitive 297 all out in the final over with veteran Johnson Charles top-scoring with 66 off 80 deliveries.

Jason Holder struck a swift Man-of-the-Match 40-ball 56, fellow all-rounder Roston Chase chipped in with a run-a-ball 55 while captain Shai Hope punched 54 from 60 deliveries.

In reply, the United States were quickly reduced to 55 for four in the 14th over, medium pacer Kyle Mayers (2-30) snatching two of the early wickets to fall.

However, Gajanand, who represented West Indies at the 2006 ICC Under-19 World Cup and also played first-class and List-A matches for Guyana, nearly turned the game on its head with an unbeaten 101 from 109 balls which got the Americans up to 258 for seven off their 50 overs.

The 35-year-old left-hander struck eight fours and two sixes, engineering partnerships of 42 for the fifth wicket with former Barbados first-class batsman Aaron Jones (23), 59 for the sixth wicket with Shayan Jahangir (39) and 76 unbroken for the eighth wicket with Nosthush Kenjige (34 not out).

“I think we need to be a bit more ruthless. We need to make sure that we bowl a lot more inconsistent areas and think more positively moving forward,” Hope said afterward.

“We need to plan better and execute even better. We need to get off strike better and when the balls are there [to be hit], we have to capitalise.”

The favourites to go through from their group, West Indies endured a nightmare start when both openers Brandon King (0) and Mayers (2) perished cheaply inside the first six overs with only 14 runs on the board.

However, West Indies then strung key partnerships together to rebuild the innings and propel themselves to the cusp of the 300-run mark.

Charles spearheaded the revival, lashing seven fours and two sixes in his second 50 in only his third innings since returning from a seven-year spell on the sidelines, posting a crucial 115 for the third wicket with Hope who counted seven fours and a six in his knock.

When both fell within the space of six balls to leave West Indies perched on 137 for four in the 28th over, Chase and Pooran combined in a 55-run, fifth-wicket partnership to keep the innings humming along.

Chase struck four fours and one six in his first half-century in four years while Pooran drove the scoring with two fours and three sixes, before picking out deep cover on the ropes with off-spinning all-rounder Steven Taylor (3-53).

Off the very next delivery, Rovman Powell was caught in the deep to depart for a first-ball ‘duck’ and suddenly West Indies were stumbling on 192 for six at the end of the 36th.

Holder arrived to launch a counter-attack, slamming two fours and three sixes to wrest the advantage back from the Americans, dominating a 74-run, seventh-wicket partnership with Chase.

The United States’ steady start to their chase was undermined, the innings slumping from 35 without loss in the eighth over to 55 for four in the 14th over, four wickets tumbling for 20 runs in the space of 36 deliveries.

Gajanand then took control, gathering his first 50 off 67 balls in the 36th over with a boundary to mid-wicket off fast bowler Alzarri Joseph (2-68) before completing three figures off a further 42 deliveries in the final over of the game with single off Chase.

Jahangir also resisted with three fours and a six off 49 balls before he hit Joseph to be caught at mid-wicket in the 34th over and Kenjige notched two fours and a six in a 34-ball knock, providing support to Gajanand.

West Indies take on Nepal in their next game on Thursday.