NZ v WI, 1st Test, Dunedin, 1st day

NZ begin summer with long-awaited tons

New Zealand are eyeing their first Test win of the year after their top-order began well on a grassy pitch and Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum sealed that advantage by registering long awaited centuries

Andrew McGlashan in Dunedin

December 3, 2013

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Ross Taylor chops one behind point, New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 1st day, December 3, 2013
Ross Taylor overcame an initial struggle to reset his mind to Test cricket from the limited-overs variety © AFP
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Taylor benefits from Crowe's advice

  • A pre-match chat with his mentor, Martin Crowe, helped Ross Taylor score his first Test hundred in a year after he was reminded to "enjoy the battle."
  • "I had a chat to him last night and he told me a few things which was good. He was just telling me to relax and get out there and enjoy the battle. There's different times during the innings where you need to do that and it was a nice timely reminder."
  • Taylor was able to enjoy the moment of his hundred alongside Brendon McCullum who had brought up his own cathartic ton a few moments earlier. They have often been seen as rivals within their own team, especially since the controversial change of captains, but New Zealand are undoubtedly stronger with them as a united force.
  • "It's been well documented that Brendon's been under the pump and it's nice for him to score a hundred after he has been in a lean patch and nice for him to do it in front of family and friends.
  • "There's always going to be that comparison with us until he retires or I retire," he added. "But we can't control that. We just have to do our best every time. We're not going to score runs every time, but if we do our best shot then hopefully that's enough."

New Zealand could barely have dreamt of a better start to their home season. Despite losing the toss, one where they too would have inserted the opposition, they hurtled along at four runs an over with their captain and former captain laying markers for the summer ahead with much-needed hundreds. Already they are in a position from which they should not lose and can push to register their first Test victory of the year.

West Indies were a gentle opposition in the opening forays, with the honourable exception of the wholehearted Tino Best whose early afternoon spell was the most impressive of the day. Their slow start was hardly unexpected, and though they pulled themselves together briefly either side of lunch - largely through Best and Shane Shillingford - New Zealand had been given a head start that they did not relinquish. Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum consolidated in forceful fashion during the evening session, which brought 173 runs in 35 overs.

It was a day that ticked many boxes for New Zealand, from the start given by Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton (reminiscent of their 158-run stand against England in March) and then the way Taylor and McCullum ensured they did not waste that platform when the pair joined forces at 185 for 3 - a score from which New Zealand's innings could still have fallen away.

They were fed some rubbish as Darren Sammy, not for the first time in recent weeks, spread his field with little impact. Only Shillingford, in a commendable effort given the cloud over his action, gave him a semblance of control, although McCullum profited against him later, and New Zealand's batsmen knew they could just play the offspinner out and feed off the poor deliveries that regularly came their way.

The hundreds for Taylor and McCullum had been long awaited and were vital for different reasons. Taylor hadn't reached three figures since losing the captaincy last year, his batting having become studded with racy fifties that did not do justice to his talent or provide the ballast the middle order needed. His previous hundred was in Colombo, which was both New Zealand's most recent Test victory and the last match for Taylor as captain, although the die had been cast before that win.

McCullum, meanwhile, had waited three years to score his seventh Test hundred. He had recently spoken about the "dark thoughts" he experienced after returning early from the Bangladesh tour with a flare-up of his chronic back condition after a period where his runs dried up. Last week he played a club game in Dunedin for local side Albion where, by all reports, he looked horribly scratchy and troubled by his back. He was bowled by a New Zealand Under-19 seamer; the difference between that attack and today's may not be as vast as you would envisage.

Even two days out from this Test, during New Zealand's first practice day, McCullum had a horrid net session according to Taylor, who offered his captain some words of advice.

"The way Brendon was batting on Sunday, I think he was trying very hard in the nets and sometimes when you really want to do well you over-train and he was doing that," Taylor said. "His balance was all over the place. Obviously there were a couple of words from other people and I just said keep your balance. That was the only thing I was going through and his balance was beautiful. He played the strokes that he's famous for and he was back to the Brendon of old."

McCullum is a batsman who lives on his instincts and if there were any doubts when he walked in, they did not show. This was also an opportunity gift-wrapped for him: a solid position forged by the top order, a soft ball, a shallow bowling attack and a fast outfield. He regularly played in similar fashion against England earlier this year, but either fell in the team push for quick runs or was left with the lower order for company.

There was the occasional flex of the back, as there will be for the rest of his career - Taylor said his captain was "cooked" at the end of the day - but he was moving well enough to deposit Shillingford twice down the ground for six and pull Shannon Gabriel over midwicket for another. There was also the sight of two reverse sweeps, the second of which took him into the 90s.

Taylor, as so often, was fierce on the cut and strong on the drive. He also had injury concerns leading into the series - a knee problem picked up during training after being rested from the Sri Lanka one-day tour - but for him, long considered the classiest batsman of this New Zealand generation and labelled as one of the country's best ever, it is about producing the volume of runs his talent demands. He will make far tougher hundreds than this one, although he admitted having to battle out of one-day mode for his first 20-30 runs, during which he gloved one over the slips from Best.

"My first initial reaction was to hit the ball," he said. "Obviously Test cricket, that's not what it's about. I was working through my head the right tempo to play and just slow myself down. I was battling and trying to hit every ball for four. It was nice to come through the other end and felt pretty good."

There will have been few positive emotions in the West Indies camp. They wasted a chance in helpful morning conditions although Taylor believed the pitch would develop into the usual comfortable batting surface seen here for Tests. New Zealand's cricket is not consistent enough for anyone to get too giddy, but already this match has the feeling of another lost cause for West Indies.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (December 3, 2013, 20:26 GMT)

Jeez "Cricket_is_Unpopular" cheer up mate. I bet you're the life of the party. I reckon Suthee Boult and Wagner will come out fired up and will be able to extract something out of this pitch.

Posted by Frayninho21 on (December 3, 2013, 18:44 GMT)

Another predictably shambolic day of cricket from the West Indies. Best for all of his bustle, heart and pace, is quite simply not a skilled test class bowler. He's been in and around test cricket for over a decade without ever nailing down a place or showing any consistency. He averages 40 with the ball (an average massaged in recent times by some cheap wickets vs Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) but against all other nations he has been found wanting. He does not always get in the Barbados 1st class side and is kept out by the likes of Jason Holder and Miguel Cummins (neither of whom is in this squad) but now he is the spearhead for the West Indies ? Shannon Gabriel is not up to the job either - since his stress fracture he doesn't look like the bowler who did ok against England at Lords. Ravi Rampaul not being selected is beyond barmy and I'd much rather see Sheldon Cottrell (from the squad) in the side. Others like Delorn Johnson, Cummins and Holder need to be in the test side immediately.

Posted by choppa13 on (December 3, 2013, 18:09 GMT)

Hold off on your assessment of the pitch until both teams have bowled on it because I'm pretty sure NZ will make better use of it. It came down to poor bowling as the west Indies couldn't land a ball in the same spot for a few deliveries. And u can't expect it to spun from day 1 this isn't the sub continent. There will be a result, weather permitting. Go black caps

Posted by shooting on (December 3, 2013, 13:25 GMT)

Pitch looked abit dry for kiwi pitch, but I suppose any century is better than no century. Hope NZ can push on from here and bowl well.

Posted by gsingh7 on (December 3, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

flat track and dead pitches. centuries will be norm in the test. how come nz fans complain about indian tracks when thy themselves prepares such flat tracks. in have never seen an indian test where 370 runs for 3 are scored on first day. never. tells u all about the flat track. draw is likely outcome.

Posted by pt_pt on (December 3, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

Refreshing to see, well done to both batsman. Have set up the series now, should kick on from here.

Posted by Kingzzzz on (December 3, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

The grass looks dead to me with no seam movement at all. Pitch looks dry and flat. Not enough crowd.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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