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More than a year had passed since New Zealand last belted out their victory song. Denied in Dunedin, Brendon McCullum was faced with another tricky follow-on scenario, but his seam trio delivered
December 13, 2013
McCullum proud of team after dominant win
In the end it all came too easily for New Zealand. Not that they were complaining. It had been more than a year since they were able to belt out their victory song. Two hours after the final wicket, the entire squad assembled in the middle to celebrate.
For Brendon McCullum it was a much-needed first win as captain. For all his talk of strides being made and that rewards would come his team's way, he was getting to the stage where he was desperate for a result to back up the words.
However, it has not just been bluster from McCullum. Certainly at home New Zealand have played some very consistent cricket this year. In four out of their five Tests they have posted first-innings scores of over 200 and in the last three matches have been in the position to enforce the follow-on, largely through the efforts of their hard-working, and skillful seam attack which was again to the fore in Wellington, led by Trent Boult's career-best haul of 10 for 80.
The catching, too, was outstanding, highlighted by Boult's gravity-defying grab - a contender for catch of the year - at backward point to remove Denesh Ramdin which hastened the three-day finish.
"I didn't envisage it happening the way it did today," McCullum said. "But I'm thoroughly pleased and proud of these guys. They've worked incredibly hard over a long period of time, and put ourselves in winning positions in the last few matches and haven't been able to get the result. We forced the result through excellent batting and bowling. Our catching and fielding in general was superb as well so I think we played the near perfect Test."
New Zealand were in control at the start of the second day, but a finishing time of 4.30pm on the third was unexpected despite West Indies' ability to fold in a heap. After Dunedin, Darren Sammy said how relieved he was that it was "not another India" - sadly, this one was another India.
Boult was the bowler to cause most grief with the tenth-best analysis by a New Zealand bowler in Test cricket and the continuation of a productive year which has seen him rise among the top wicket-takers in the world where is currently vying for third place on 41 scalps.
West Indies were awful, barring the period at the start of the follow-on where Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell added 74 to perhaps just get McCullum a little twitchy after what happened in Dunedin. But when the breakthrough came, the rest followed swiftly. Their overall figures are not pretty; break them down further and they are downright ugly: a collapse of 6 for 18 in the first innings, 4 for 20 after the second opening stand, 5 for 29 to finish the game off, 10 for 101 in the entire second innings.
Yet there was an element of a gamble by McCullum when he enforced the follow-on, admitting that there was conflicting advice after the experience at University Oval. When it was put to Boult as to whether it was the seamers who pushed the agenda, there was a wry smile. It was the main reason why Boult, despite ending West Indies' first innings with five wickets in 15 balls, only bowled two overs out of the first 34 in the follow-on. When he did return, refreshed, he hustled his way to another four.
The security of a five or, if Kane Williamson is included, a six-man bowling attack was one of the factors that persuaded McCullum to go for the quick finish. "If in doubt, I always like to go for the attacking option," he said.
And although Boult ended with the eye-catching return, the second innings was set-up by Tim Southee and Neil Wagner who combined for exacting spells after lunch when the West Indies' openers had threatened to set the platform for another rearguard. Southee bowled nine off the reel to take 3 for 24 and Wagner produced the best spell of the match, and possibly the series, during which he claimed Darren Bravo and worked over Marlon Samuels whose subsequent edge to slip off Southee was down to teamwork.
"That was a crucial period for us," McCullum said. "It was going to be tough after Trent had bowled a lot of overs to still have his potency. We knew that we had to rely a lot on the other guys. Tim bowled a tremendous spell.
"Wags [Wagner] was struggling a little bit to get his rhythm and to try and impose himself on the game. He's a real fighter and he knew he was starting to battle a bit. It was great that he was able to put the effort in at a really crucial time for us and showed why he is an excellent third seamer for us. Trent got the accolades, and quite rightly so, and he will continue to do so but those other guys certainly played their part also."
As McCullum headed off to make sure he could remember the words to the team song, his public commitments for the day were done and he could begin to relax. It's only one Test, but it's a start.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge