A fighting century from captain Ross Taylor wasn't enough to steer the Black Caps to victory in their fourth one-day international against the West Indies at Basseterre this morning.
The 24-run loss meant the home side takes an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, which concludes at the same ground on Tuesday (NZ time).
Chasing 264 runs to win, New Zealand were quickly ahead of the pace at 50 for one wicket after seven overs. But the loss of three wickets for 25 runs rocked the Kiwis onto the back foot and forced Taylor and wicketkeeper Tom Latham to resurrect the innings.
Returning to the line-up after injuring a shoulder earlier in the tour, Taylor brought up his century in the 46th over, but with batsmen falling regularly at the other end, he was forced to hit out, needing 28 runs with two overs remaining.
Attempting to hoist the ball for six, he was finally caught by rival skipper Darren Sammy off Dwayne Bravo's bowling - his 110 runs took 115 balls and included five sixes.
"It was probably 50/50 a couple of days ago whether I would play," said Taylor. "This shows it's not about feeling good - visualisation and match preparation were more how I got away with it, but it just wasn't good enough."
With tailenders Tim Southee and Trent Boult left at the wicket, the Kiwis had little chance of making up the deficit in the final over, and Southee was eventually run out looking for a run that was never there.
Opener Rob Nicol had 35 runs off 32 balls to set a foundation for the NZ dig, but Latham's 32 off 62 balls, while necessary at the time, was too slow to be effective.
Fast bowler Tino Best finished with four wickets for 46 runs, while spinner Sunil Narine was a miserly 2-20 off his 10 overs and was duly named Man of the Match.
"We were always behind the game, but towards the batting power play, we started to get some momentum," said Taylor. "To get 79 runs off the last 10 overs, you've got to back yourself, but you have to give credt to Narine."
Twenty wides from the Black Caps bowlers had earlier let the West Indies off the hook somewhat. They had the home side staggering at 59 for four wickets in the 18th over after again dismissing master blaster Chris Gayle cheaply - he was lbw to Southee for just 16 runs - in the opening exchanges.
But Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard steadied the ship with a a 46-run stand for the fifth wicket, and then Pollard further consolidated the effort with an 85-run partnership with Devon Thomas.
Pollard finished as the Windies' top scorer with 56 off 70 balls, but they needed some rear-guard hitting from captain Darren Sammy (26 off 22 balls) and Andre Russell (29 off 16) to reach their total.
"You've got to give credit to the West Indies," observed Taylor. "Their middle order played very well, with some good cameos further down, and they put a very competitive total on the board.
"We would like to have put the foot on the throat, but they batted very well and we didn't execute at the death."
The Kiwi bowlers let themselves down with their wayward direction - Boult and spinner Nathan McCullum had five wides each, with McCullum conceding all his on one ball down the leg side that beat Latham and ran to the boundary.
Southee and veteran Jacob Oram each had three wickets, with Oram's costing just 4.2 runs an over.
The NZ lineup was virtually at full strength with the inclusion of Taylor and late arrival Brendon McCullum.
"We're slowly improving in different areas, but we need to come back and play better [on Tuesday] to take some momentum into the test series," said Taylor.
Scoreboard for the fourth one-day international between West Indies and New Zealand at Basseterre.
J Charles c Williamson b Bracewell 1
C Gayle lbw Southee 16
D Smith c Taylor b Southee 0
M Samuels lbw N McCullum 46
D Bravo c Boult b Oram 18
K Pollard c B McCullum b Oram 56
D Thomas c Taylor b Nicol 37
D Sammy c Guptill b Boult 26
A Russell c Guptill b Oram 29
S Narine not out 6
T Best b Southee 3
Extras (5lb 1nb 20w) 26
Total 264 (49.5 overs)
Fall of wickets: 1-17 (Charles), 2-19 (Gayle), 3-20 (Smith), 4-59 (Bravo), 5-105 (Samuels), 6-190 (Thomas), 7-202 (Pollard), 8-234 (Sammy), 9-258 (Russell), 10-264 (Best)
Bowling: D Bracewell 10-2-58-1 (1w), T Boult 10-2-47-1 (5w), T Southee 9.5-1-53-3 (1w 1nb), J Oram 10-1-42-3 (3w), N McCullum 4-0-34-1 (9w), R Nicol 6-1-25-1 (1w)
R Nicol c Bravo b Sammy 35
M Guptill lbw b Best 0
B McCullum c Sammy b Russell 10
R Taylor c Sammy b Best 110
K Williamson lbw b Narine 3
T Latham c Thomas b Samuels 32
N McCullum c Sammy b Best 11
J Oram b Best 6
D Bracewell c Pollard b Narine 5
T Southee run out (Thomas) 3
T Boult not out 1
Extras (b 5, lb 10, w 8, nb 1)
Total 240 (49.3 overs)
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Guptill), 2-50 (B
McCullum), 3-63 (Nicol), 4-75 (Williamson), 5-146 (Latham), 6-170
(N McCullum), 7-219 (Oram), 8-234 (Bracewell), 9-237 (Taylor),
Bowling: T Best 10-1-46-4 (4w), A Russell 6-0-49-1 (1w), D Sammy 10-1-41-1 (1nb), S Narine 10-1-20-2 (1w), M Samuels 10-0-50-1, D Bravo 3.3-0-19-0 (1w)
West Indies win by 24 runs, lead the series 3-1