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T20 World Cup: How Sherfane Rutherford constructed a world-class knock to effectively knock New Zealand out

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New Zealand reached 100/6 at the end of 17 overs in their run-chase. West Indies were 112/9 at the end of 18 overs. In an ideal world, New Zealand would have been needing somewhere like 25 to 30 off the last 3 overs, a very doable task. But instead, they needed 50 more runs off the last 18 balls.

The reason? Sherfane Rutherford.

In what will go down as one of the best knocks of the tournament, the left-hander displayed immense ability to hold down his end under pressure before going big later. His 39-ball 68 on a night almost everyone struggled to get going with the bat was the big difference as West Indies staged a remarkable fightback from 76/7 to post 149/9. The bowlers then stepped up, led by spinner Gudakesh Motie and pacer Alzarri Joseph to hand New Zealand a 13-run defeat, a result that all but eliminated Black Caps from Super 8 contention.

It started off as an emotionally charged night – a packed Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Trinidad & Tobago’s first match of the World Cup gave a rousing applause to a rendition of ‘Rally ’round the West Indies’ by the original singer David Rudder. And it percolated into West Indies’ batting as they made rash decisions, sliding to 22/4 within the powerplay.

That’s when Rutherford walked in. And decided to do what goes against the grain for T20 batters these days: bat for time. He shelved the big shots, and went about getting his eye in. At the 10-over mark, he was on 6 off 10. Then came a potentially decisive blow at the start of the 11th over. Kane Williamson had held Mitch Santner back till that point, because of two left-handers in the middle, and as if to vindicate that, he smashed the first ball of the left-arm spinner for a six. Even though Santner picked up the wicket of Akeal Hosein in that over, it sowed enough doubt in Williamson’s mind regarding the usage of his main spin option.

The fallout of that will be felt later in the innings. New Zealand decided to go all pace from there on… and it nearly paid off. For 18 overs of that innings, the Kiwis were getting it right. After a dreadful first half on the field against Afghanistan, they were sharp on the field and with their bowling plans. They kept picking up wickets in regular intervals, with Trent Boult removing Andre Russell in the 13th over seen as a potential turning point.

But when Boult finished the18th over, Rutherford’s plan to bat deep paid off. NZ had to turn to Daryl Mitchell and Santner to bowl the 19th and 20th. Rutherford’s time had come. He smashed Mitchell for three sixes in the 19th over, and added 18 more runs off the 20th by Santner. A 86m six off Mitchell off the third delivery was a stunning short-arm jab over long off, all wrists and forearms, as if his body was storing that energy all this while waiting to be unleashed.

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“My role was basically to take it to the 15th, 16th over. But then after we lose wickets, I just tell myself, I’m going to try and take it to the 20th over and try and maximise the last two overs which they had to make up with two bowlers,” Rutherford said.

Williamson had no doubts where they lost the match. “We saw a fantastic knock from Rutherford and he certainly timed it beautifully. He got his match up and I think at the end of the day that was the difference,” Williamson said after the match. “From 90 for seven, whatever the West Indies were, to get to 150 was a fantastic effort and incredibly smart and calculated batting from Rutherford. To put a contribution like that up on that surface was world-class and really got them a strong total on that wicket.”

The NZ captain said that it was a game of cat and mouse that didn’t go his side’s way. “We knew that we needed to get Rutherford out but the batting depth of the West Indies side really shone through. You know it’s going to be scrappy; you know that three balls here or three balls there can really put the score above par and that’s what they were able to do. So, for us to try and take that wicket and try and have the opportunity to sort of restrict them in that 120 region, I think was worth doing and didn’t quite pay off.”

For Rutherford, the night was a vindication of the training he had put in when he was with the KKR during the IPL, although he didn’t get to play for the champions. “I would put it as my best knock. It’s a World Cup, this is my dream. I always wanted to play in the World Cup, I always want to perform in the World Cup and I think this one’s going to stay close to my heart,” Rutherford said.

It will be for the West Indies as well, who overcame an almighty challenge to keep their dream on track.





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