New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 3rd day December 5, 2013

NZ find venom in Southee-Boult combination

The new-ball pairing of Tim Southee and Trent Boult promises to be a productive one for New Zealand as they look for a consistent threat at the top of their attack

New Zealand's bowlers, led by the increasingly excellent combination of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, had done half their job by mid-afternoon in Dunedin but there may just be a few fleeting thoughts of their experience in March against England.

West Indies' second innings was a significant improvement on a limp, first-innings affair which accrued just 213. They are still a long way from even making New Zealand worry about their position, but the decision to enforce the follow-on (completely understandable with a lead of 396, their second highest first-innings advantage in Test cricket) has consigned the hosts' attack to a long stint on the park with the chance that they'll then be bowling first in Wellington.

Against England the scenario was different, in that the follow-on was out of the equation with New Zealand instead building a huge lead before trying to bowl England out. Still, they endured nearly two days in the field followed by another five sessions a few days later in the second Test.

There is no suggestion that Brendon McCullum has erred - just a partial explanation as to why the follow-on has become a less popular route these days - and a first Test victory of the year will help ease any weariness the bowlers may feel over the next few days.

As with the ball, West Indies aided their own difficulties with some flat-footed batting - especially the drives by Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Narsingh Deonarine - but the bowling of Southee and Boult was exemplary, as it had been against England earlier in the year when they shared 37 wickets in the five Tests spread across two countries.

They had set the tone the previous evening with a wicket apiece, but on the third morning it was Southee who found the early success. Crucially, unlike West Indies, he and Boult both kept the ball pitched up except for the occasional variation of the short one, content to accept that the batsman would occasionally drive but knowing that footwork would not always be top priority. That proved the case in the first three wickets of the day, which were all edges behind to the cordon.

There was no lavish swing on another perfect summer's day, but the subtle skills of both bowlers - Southee shaping the ball away and Boult with the dual option of nipping it back and slanting across - was a stern examination of the West Indian techniques. Bravo and, inevitably, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, were the best equipped to cope (Kirk Edwards made significant improvements in the second innings) but eventually the bowlers outsmarted them.

Bravo was tempted into a drive which was brilliantly held in the gully by McCullum, and Chanderpaul, expecting a delivery from Boult to shape away from him, padded up as the ball held its line; the replays showed it was only a bail-trimming lbw, but to induce such an misjudgement from Chanderpaul is a huge credit to the bowler.

The new-ball pair complement each other beautifully. They are not quick - although Boult was slippery enough to account for both Bravo and Chanderpaul in the first innings - but certainly clever and have matured into a pair who demand the utmost respect from the opposition.

It has been a partnership many years in the making. "We've played enough cricket together that we know each other well off [the pitch]," he said. "We finish the game, we catch a ride back together and we'll talk about it overnight and come back the next day. We're always bouncing ideas off each other. We know each other as cricket mates and mates off the field. Hopefully it can continue working."

The new-ball pair [Southee and Boult] complement each other beautifully. They are not quick - although Boult was slippery enough to account for both Bravo and Chanderpaul in the first innings - but certainly clever and have matured into a pair who demand the utmost respect from the opposition.

However, there was also a third bowler to warrant much interest. Not Neil Wagner, who was not in his best rhythm - although the pacer appeared unfortunate to not have Bravo caught off the wristband of the glove in the second innings - but legspinner Ish Sodhi, of whom so much is hoped for.

Amid the long hops and full tosses, of which there were plenty, was the occasional glimpse of his immense promise. His spell to Chanderpaul will have been a fantastic education. It was not always pretty for Sodhi - particularly during the period before lunch when he went for 23 in nine balls against the left-hander - but McCullum did not hide his young legspinner, throwing him into the action again after the break.

Boult did him a huge favour by trapping Chanderpaul and the lower order was exposed. Darren Sammy, who could barely walk, dealt in boundaries but Sodhi held his nerve and found a lovely googly to deceive Shane Shillingford two balls after he had plonked him over the sightscreen. Captaincy of legspin is almost as much of an art as the bowling itself. McCullum had a mountain of runs to play with, but it was nevertheless an important show of trust and understanding.

And the follow-on promised more, particularly his second spell, when he confounded Edwards with a slider to end his resilient stay and caused Samuels regular difficulties. New Zealand reviewed for an lbw shout from another googly, but the delivery was sliding down leg, and Samuels was not picking the variations. Twice he dangerously padded up. It was hugely encouraging.

Sodhi should enjoy another long bowl tomorrow. There are plenty of runs in the bank, McCullum likes to attack, and West Indies have suggested the stomach for more of a fight. There will be tough spells, sessions, days and matches to come for Sodhi but there appears much to work with. And West Indies know that even if they negotiate him, there will be the Southee-Boult new-ball double act to follow during the afternoon.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • William on December 10, 2013, 1:15 GMT

    @kiwicricketnut I really understand your point as Neeshams variations could prove very useful when the opposition r chasing a total on the the 5th day of a test and he will be a difficult customer if he gets them right. he took a 5 for vs. northern districts which helped me realise he should play tests and he would give our attack more variety as Southee, Wagner, Boult, Sodhi and Anderson has too many left armers. Neesham has more variety than Wagner or Bracewell who are one dimensional hence their lack of success.

  • jared on December 7, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    @ Snowbadger15 yeah im not sure of his first class stats, the fact that he can hold a bat is a bonus but its his style of bowling that i thought might be handy as a third seamer, i know he can get it through at 140km but with his variations his range changes by about 20kms, again i don't know his first class bowling stats but i do know he offers something a little bit different and maybe its that point of difference that we need after all how many stock standard fast medium bowlers do we try before we decide its not working.

  • M on December 5, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    From the highlights package i could see sodhi getting wickets more from the googly than by regular conventional legspin. I also saw some top spinners, hope he might get the arm ball which will help him a lot. Shane used a lot of arm balls to get wickets. No wonder even mishra does use a lot googly to get wickets than normal legspin. Kumble had bowled a lot armballs to get there. Mann i love leg spin :-)

  • William on December 5, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    @kiwicricketnut I agree that Wagner can not reverse swing the ball like everyone says, and Milne should be given ago but Jimmy Neesham is definitely not ready for tests yet. He has a batting average of 24 so he cant play as an all rounder while his he has a good average, he has not been knocking on the door for selection but he has definitely got a place in the limited overs side , no questions about that. Good to see Latham amongst the runs on a green deck at rangiora and he should be next in line ahead of Brownlie. Very pleasing to see Sodhi playing and getting a little bit of turn on day 3 of OUR pitches. He has a excellent googly and the last few overs of the day he was genuinely troubling them with the well concealed googly.

  • thomas on December 5, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    Where was Southee and Boult during their tour to Bangladesh? Did these guys play?

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    McClenaghan? Goes for a few, but takes wickets and bowls a few Jaffas at the next level down.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2013, 9:48 GMT

    Southee and Boult have indeed been doing very well for NZ. They have formed a very effective attack with their quality swing bowling. It was disappointing to see NZ fail to beat England at home earlier this year; they were in a great position in the 3rd test and picked up 9 wickets in the 4th innings. I think a couple of catches were dropped in that innings which probably cost NZ the match. I am looking forward to these two leading their team's attack for many years from here. They have the talent and their performances have been impressive. NZ need their players to play well consistently if they want to be considered a good side in World Cricket again.

  • jared on December 5, 2013, 8:36 GMT

    the perfect opening pair, swinging it in opposite directions at good pace but the third seamer role has been a tricky spot to fill in recent years, had high hopes for bracewell but like wagner he bowls and runs in hard all day but is just a bit one dimensional, all this talk about wagner being able to reverse swing the ball when its old is a bit of a myth. we need to find a third seamer who can take wickets with an old ball, i'd like to see milne given a go, his extra pace might induce false strokes and is a way better bowler in the long version of the game than the shorter stuff. one guy i'd hate to see get pigeon holed as an odi and t20 specialist is neesham, we did the same with adams which was a huge mistake, maybe his variations is the answer rather than raw pace, as long as its not arnel ill be happy but we need to keep looking to complete the attack.

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