Had the West Indies fielders been World Cup footballers, they would have been hauled off the field for missing six chances against New Zealand yesterday. But the opposition did not make them pay. A three-wicket burst by Jerome Taylor after tea, and better catching saw to that, as the Black Caps were curtailed for 221 on the opening day of the second Test.
And perhaps the tone for this match was set when in the seven overs West Indies batted before the close, late swing by Trent Boult plucked out Chris Gayle’s off-stump, leaving nightwatchman Sulieman Benn to go to the close with Kraigg Brathwaite at six for one.
Taylor’s perfect length in a five-over spell (5-0-19-3) rescued a day at the Queen’s Park Oval that was going to pieces for Denesh Ramdin and his men before the break. But Taylor removed Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling and Ish Sodhi to seize the advantage for the Windies, after Benn had made the initial breakthrough, winning an lbw decision via the Decision Review System (DRS) against visiting captain Brendon McCullum.
Giant left-arm spinner Benn (28.4-6-73-3) and Shannon Gabriel (12-2-43-2), playing his first Test at home—replacing the injured Shane Shilingford—chipped in with four wickets between them as New Zealand collapsed. They lost seven wickets for 62 runs.
Benn, victim of four of the six missed opportunities, was eventually rewarded for utilising his height and the bounce the pitch offered him; while Taylor (17-5-34-4) who also removed opener Hamish Rutherford (in for Peter Fulton) in the first session, kept his length just full enough — especially in that post tea session — to entice his victims into giving catches.
New Zealand’s rapid decline in the afternoon left WI skipper Denesh Ramdin with a smile on his face. That smile was not there however in the last over to tea, when in the closing minutes of the session, debutant Jermaine Blackwood missed Ross Taylor (45 not out) at backward point, and in the last over, Ramdin himself and solitary slip Chris Gayle allowed a Taylor edge to sail between them, and Kirk Edwards grassed a one-handed effort very close in on the on-side, next ball, the last of the session.
Those were three escapes for Taylor with just 17 to his name. He would get a fourth later before Benn ended the innings with the wicket of Trent Boult.
“What happened was that we created the chances and once that was happening we knew we could do it again,” an unperturbed Taylor said of those second session mishaps.
He certainly kept his cool to deliver in a way the West Indies have missed too often in his absence of nearly five years.
The let-offs, while not reflecting well on the choice of shot by the batsmen, was also an indication that the bowlers could get more joy from this surface than they did in Jamaica. So while perfect foil Benn and quicks Taylor, Gabriel and Kemar Roach would have been pleased to keep the total below 250 after opener Tom Latham (82, 229 minutes, 10 fours) and Kane Williamson (42, 153 minutes, five fours) had posted 105 for the second wicket.
The Windies only removed Rutherford in the first session, but might have done better had they collectively made the batsmen play at more balls after McCullum had won the toss and decided to bat first again.
Latham and Williamson put on 105 for the second wicket after left-hander Rutherford followed a ball he could have left and gave Gayle the first of his three catches in the innings.
Latham, with his third consecutive half-century of the series was threatening to hold up the Windies even further. But a tumbling low catch by Benn in the gully ended his resistance after lunch at 146 for three. Big Benn did not miss his targets on this day.