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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
December 5, 2013
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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