The first Test match between the West Indies and New Zealand at Sabina Park in Jamaica looks to be heading the way of the Black Caps after the West Indies batsmen struggled on day three.
The first two days had seen New Zealand amass a huge first innings score of 508-7 on a sluggish pitch, before deciding to declare. The West Indies faced an uphill struggle from then on and, after day three had ended, they were in a battle to save the match.
Most of New Zealand's batsmen coped well with the slow turning pitch in their first innings, with Kane Williamson, benefiting from a recent spell in English county cricket with Yorkshire, hitting 113 and Jimmy Neesham 107. There were also half-centuries for opener Tom Latham (83), Ross Taylor (55) and wicket-keeper BJ Watling (89). A good solid all-round batting performance from the Kiwis.
The West Indies spinners, Sulieman Benn (3-142) and Shane Shillingford (3-145), took the majority of the wickets as they got through most of the workload for the home side. But in truth their bowlers lacked the cutting edge that was required.
In reply, the West Indies were grateful for their experienced players otherwise their final first innings total could have been a lot worse.
Chris Gayle (64) offered some resistance for the home side in his 100th test and
he was aided by another experienced player, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who ended the innings unbeaten on 84. However, the Windies were well short of New Zealand's first innings score as they were bowled out for 262 and trailed by 246 runs.
Apart from Gayle, Chanderpaul and Dinesh Ramdin's 39, the Windies batsmen batted
poorly with loose shots and even worse footwork. The pitch was not to blame as it didn’t behave any differently to when New Zealand batted on it.
In truth, the Black Caps bowlers outbowled their opposition as well with Tim Southee once again impressing with figures of 4-19 from 16 overs. Special mention must also go to off-spinner Mark Craig, who took 4-91 on his debut. A dream start for him.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum decided against enforcing the follow-on and
sent his batsmen out to drive home their authority. The fact that the visitors stumbled to 14-2 at the close of play was not significant as they had amassed a lead of 260 with eight second innings wickets in hand, a truly dominant position to be in.
The only downside for McCullum will be the form of opener Peter Fulton, who was dismissed for a duck in the second innings after scoring only one run in the first.
Day four will be all about attacking cricket from New Zealand as they try to force a victory whilst the West Indies will need to dig deep and find some resistance and fight in order to stop themselves going 1-0 down in the three-match series. The pitch could well deteriorate on day four and five, adding further problems to the West Indies' survival plans.
The sides are scheduled to play another two test matches in the series. The second test will take place in Trinidad on the 16 June, followed by the third and final test in Barbados, starting on the 26 June.
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