Rutherford special takes West Indies to Super 8 | Crickit
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Rutherford special takes West Indies to Super 8

Jun 13, 2024 06:38 PM IST

Hits 37 in last two overs before Joseph, Motie share seven wickets to help WI defeat NZ for the first time in an ICC event since 1999

Not since the 1999 World Cup had West Indies scored an outright defeat of New Zealand at an ICC event. And on 112/9 after the 18th over, West Indies weren’t close to even threatening that record. Sherfane Rutherford, however, was biding his time after coming into bat in the Powerplay only for the second time in his T20I career. Two sixes were the only two boundary shots he had managed till then in a largely disappointing innings that Trent Boult had a stranglehold of after a ruthless spell of 4-1-16-3. Needing a win to stay on course for a Super 8 berth, New Zealand could tell themselves almost half the job had been done.

West Indies' Sherfane Rutherford bats during the men's T20 World Cup cricket match between the West Indies and New Zealand at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy(PTI)
West Indies' Sherfane Rutherford bats during the men's T20 World Cup cricket match between the West Indies and New Zealand at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy(PTI)

But then came the exact moment Rutherford turned it around for West Indies. Bowling to him was IPL-enriched Daryll Mitchell, taking pace off the ball on a slow Tarouba pitch in Port of Spain. Rutherford waited, having sized out the fine-leg boundary, and muscled Mitchell over the infield for a six. Next ball was an intended yorker but it ended up in Rutherford’s arc, and he had no problem lofting it for six. Two balls later, Mitchell inexplicably pitched it short enough for Rutherford to get inside its line and pull it over long-leg for the third six of the over. Two fours and another six off Mitchell Santner in the last over, and Rutherford had raced to a 39-ball 68, adding 37 runs off the last two overs in the process and guiding West Indies to 149.

Throughout this rampage stood guard No 11 and slow left-arm bowler Gudakesh Motie on zero, making this 37-run stand the highest in T20 World Cup history. Motie followed that up with a class act of his own, taking 3/25 to complement fast bowler Alzarri Joseph’s 4/19 to script a 13-run win that saw West Indies advance to the next round. The only previous instance of a team winning a T20 World Cup match game after losing their first five wickets for 30 runs or below was Uganda (26/5) during their chase of 78 against Papua New Guinea in Guyana last week. New Zealand have now lost three consecutive matches in the T20 World Cup since that 2022 semi-final loss to Pakistan, making this their second longest losing streak in the competition. All because Rutherford chose that over to break loose.

"We told the guys that somebody has to play a blinder," West Indies captain Rovman Powell said after the game. "It wasn't going to be an easy wicket because of the inclement weather. We always believe that individual brilliance in T20 cricket is needed some time and Sherfane's innings was a fantastic knock. It gave us confidence and at the halfway mark, we believed."

New Zealand probably erred in using up their best frontline bowlers early, leaving them with Mitchell and Santner for the last two overs. But they are pretty wily bowlers, especially Santner who has been in this situation before. Rutherford’s selection—ahead of the more experienced Shimron Hetmyer—was a gamble too, given he didn’t even get a game at Kolkata Knight Riders who won this year’s IPL. But he chose the perfect occasion to highlight the Caribbean’s endless supply of T20 specialists.

“I was in the IPL for two months, so you know I was preparing even though I wasn't playing," said Rutherford later. “I was just telling myself to take it deep. Me and (West Indies white-ball coach Daren) Sammy had a talk and he said: 'try and take it deep'. The deeper I went, I started feeling momentum and I thought I could always make up in the end.” West Indies were far from perfect, dropping catches, missing run outs and being generally sloppy in the field. But their individual talent remains top-notch. Be it Joseph or Andre Russell, or the spirited Nicholas Pooran who displaced Chris Gayle as West Indies’ highest T20I run scorer. Add to that list Rutherford who probably couldn’t capitalise on the make-or-break moments to have come in his career before Thursday. But he has finally arrived, and how.

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