A HIGH QUALITY innings from a high quality young batsman, indifferent performances from all but the impressive Kemar Roach, who claimed his 100th Test wicket, and the grossly under used Jason Holder in a specifically enlarged bowling staff and, not least, puzzling strategy steadily put the decisive third Test beyond the West Indies’ reach on the fourth day yesterday.
Then, for the second time in the match, rain, more torrential and persistent than any for the year, intervened an hour and five minutes after lunch. Having set out in the final session on Saturday at the fall of opener Tim Latham to Roach’s sixth delivery and battled through from the insecurity of 68 for three, Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s 23-year-old No.3, headed back to the Garfield Sobers Pavilion unbeaten 153. It was his second hundred for the series, following his 103 at Sabina Park, and his seventh and highest in his 34 Tests.
For the remainder of the afternoon, he, his teammates and their West Indian opponents kept a keen interest on the weather, for contrasting reasons. New Zealand were 314 for six, an already testing lead of 290. Another 48 overs were scheduled, ample opportunity for them to carry it to 400 before a late declaration to present the West Indies with an awkward half an hour or so.
For more than an hour, it seemed as it that would be it for the day. Gradually, the rain subsided and the clouds lifted; Kensington’s sand-based outfield once more quickly absorbed the surface water so that play could restart at 4.30.
The remaining overs were reduced to 18. It gave the West Indies welcome breathing space and set New Zealand the predicament of when to declare. At 331 for seven, with Williamson still entrenched at 161, they carry a lead of 307 in the final day of a series that stands at 1-1. The overs are to be bumped up from the usual 90 to 100 to compensate for lost time.
The carrot is a victory that would bring them their first triumph in an away series against the main teams. This goes back to 1999 when they prevailed 2-1 in England. Even on a pitch as flat as at any time during the match, the West Indies face a nervous final day.
They have entered the match with a reduced batting order; presuming New Zealand bat on for another 15 overs to carry their advantage above 350, the equation would leave the West Indies little choice but to set out for a draw.
For their part, Roach and Holder were the only West Indians who appeared capable to taking a wicket. Until Jerome Taylor grabbed a return catch off Tim Southee in the brief final period of play, no one else did. In his third match since his shoulder operation last October, Roach has been at his penetrative best.
With his eighth ball of the day, he won a clear lbw verdict against New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum and returned after the first rain break to reach his deserved landmark in his 26th Test, BJ Wattling slapping a catch to Holder at backward point. He became the 19th West Indian to reach 100 wickets; the last was Fidel Edwards.
Roach operated exclusively from the north, the Joel Garner end. His 12.1 overs on the day cost him just 25 for his two wickets. The debutant Holder had caused problems with his controlled bounce and movement in five overs in the closing overs of the previous afternoon. Ross Taylor had been his first, esteemed Test wicket.
Yet it was 22 overs and an hour and 35 minutes into the day before captain Ramdin summoned him. He needed nine balls to break Williamson’s growing partnership of 91 with the belligerent Jimmy Neesham.
The free-hitting left-hander smashed four sixes — three off Shillingford, one of Taylor — in 51 off 67 balls then drove into Kraigg Brathwaite’s midrift at short extra-cover.
It might have been the cue for a lengthy spell for Holder. Instead, he was limited to five overs while the spinners, Shillingford and Sulieman Benn, leaked runs. Shillingford’s 15 overs on the day cost 70, Benn’s 16 went for 60. Strange, indeed.
West Indies vs New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND 1st Innings 293
WEST INDIES 1st Innings 317
NEW ZEALAND 2nd Innings
T Latham c Shillingford b Roach 0
H Rutherford c wkp Ramdin b Roach 19
K Williamson not out 161
R Taylor c Bravo b Holder 6
B McCullum lbw b Roach 25
J Neesham c Brathwaite b Holder 51
BJ Watling c Holder b Roach 29
T Southee c & b Taylor 7
M Craig not out 4
Extras (b20, lb1, w7, nb1) 29
TOTAL (7 wkts, 89.1 overs) 331
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Latham), 2-56 (Rutherford), 3-68 (Taylor), 4-135 (McCullum), 5-226 (Neesham), 6-305 (Watling), 7-327 (Southee)
Bowling: Taylor 16-4-54-1 (w1), Roach 19.1-4-55-4 (w1), Benn 26-1-94-0 (nb1), Holder 10-2-26-2 (w1), Shillingford 18-2-81-0.
Position: New Zealand lead by 307 runs.
Toss: New Zealand.
Umpires: Ian Gould, Richard Illingworth; TV: Rod Tucker.