New Zealand v West Indies, 2nd Test, Wellington December 9, 2013

Green pitch may stymie West Indies spin

24

The sight of Shane Shillingford troubling New Zealand's top order on the final day in Dunedin had peaked West Indies' excitement at the prospect of confounding them with spin in the remainder of this series, but that notion may have to be put on hold. The 22 yards at the Basin Reserve was barely discernible from the outfield after the covers were belatedly removed following a damp morning.

West Indies, though, are encouraged by the fitness of Darren Sammy and the captain took a full part in the fielding drills on Monday without any noticeable discomfort. Although he still needs to bowl in the nets, the signs are that he will take a full part in the Test.

Sunil Narine and Veerasammy Permaul are the other spinners in the squad, with the former favourite to come into the side if two are selected. Shane Warne often reels off the saying "if it seams, it spins", but playing just two pace bowlers is unthinkable if the groundsman leaves such a covering. However, one benefit West Indies do have is that Narsingh Deonarine bowls useful offspin, and so can supplement the same balance of attack as West Indies used in Dunedin.

"That's a strong possibility," Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, said when asked about playing an extra spinner and as the rain kept the pitch covered. "We have to look at the pitch first. We've heard some things about it, that we won't be able to tell the pitch from the outfield so that will make us think for sure about two spinners or not. Shannon Gabriel did not have a good Test, he did not bowl very well, but we believe in him - that's why we picked him - he's shown he can be a quality performer. We have to give them the confidence they need."

Two days out from a Test is always a tricky time to be judging what the pitch will actually start like, but even within the New Zealand team there was consensus that they had never seen so much grass on a surface at this ground, even for domestic matches where groundsmen tend to produce livelier surfaces.

"Even in first-class cricket when you arrive there's normally a bit more grass on, but I've never seen it looking that green," Peter Fulton said. "It'll be interesting to see if it does as much as what it looks like it'll do.

"It's a little bit hard to pick it out from the rest of the block so I'm sure the bowlers will be happy. The last couple of years in New Zealand the wickets have been batter-friendly so there are certainly no complaints from the batters. You don't expect it to be good for batting all the time."

New Zealand undoubtedly have the stronger hand of pace bowlers - Doug Bracewell is the other available in the squad should a change or addition be required - but there may be a double-edged sword if the pitch is still very green come Wednesday morning because they are coming off the back of 224 overs in the field over the last three days in Dunedin. The bowlers were given a day off on Monday, and are unlikely to do much work tomorrow, either, as they are protected ahead of the Test.

There has been some criticism of the Dunedin pitch, but without rain the Test would have concluded with a result in the final session - which is a good yardstick for a well-balanced surface. It was, though, hard work for the quicks and the sight of something promising more life is helping to ease away those aches and pains.

"It's going to be totally different than Dunedin. As a bowler I do enjoy coming here; a lot more pace and bounce and it does swing here," Trent Boult said. "It was a pretty heavy workload but I'm feeling good. The whole bowling group are feeling good and taking a nice couple of easy days.

"Test cricket is extremely strenuous on the body and you've got to work out a plan and what works well for you. It takes a lot to keep going at that intensity and you've got to be smart with your down time."

West Indies' quick bowlers, though, are under instruction to improve from their Dunedin showing. "Our bowlers, whenever we got two or three balls right, we looked like getting an edge - sometimes they went over slip - but the New Zealand batsmen just had to wait for a poor ball to score off," Gibson said. "New Zealand bowled with great discipline, especially Southee and Boult in the first innings, and we have to learn from them. Patience is a skill in itself and something we need to work on as a bowling group."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 11, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Looking at the game and I was right. Windies management got psyched out with "green top" and failed to pick Narine. NZ batting on green top are currently 187-3. Always play your best team especially with inconsistent fast bowlers.

  • rayinto on December 10, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    The pacers are ineffective anyway - so play your best bowlers meaning both Shillingford and Narine should be in the squad.I thought Sammy was injured...he must be iron man! When last he missed a game!

  • everfaithful77 on December 10, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    You know I really love this CRICINFO blog. THE COMMENTS TO THIS REPORT ARE AMONG THE MOST WELL INFORMED AND LOGICAL I"VE EVER READ. Great going guys. If bloggers can always keep it simple and to the point like this in all int'l cricket then I think all teams will benefit and our contributions will be truly appreciated. On the 2nd test I think most of us agree that WINDIES NEED TO PLAY THE BEST BOWLERS available on this tour: SHILLINGFORD, NARINE, BEST and ofcourse SAMMY plays as captain. GABRIEL has the pace but not the control needed at this level and clearly this is something the coach needs to help him with. NARINE definitely troubled the Kiwis in the previous series played in the Caribbean so playing him should be a no-brainer. He should've played the first test. I also agree with giving JOHNSON and CUMMINS int'l exposure in the ODI series that follows to display their skills and to identify any areas that need improvement. This is the best way to prepare them for TEST CRICKET.

  • on December 10, 2013, 2:28 GMT

    I agree with those who say play your best bowlers - Best, Sammy, Shillingford and Narine. Gabriel and Cottrell are lost at sea and need more first class experience. Plus , I don't know why West Indies were fearful to give the ball to Samuels and limiting Narine to when NZ already had a big total. Green top is temporary if a batting team bats through the first session.

  • on December 9, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    im sorry but i think shillinford wasnt getting the new zealand batsmen out in the second innings... brendan, hamish played shots which got themselves out. I'm sorry but i dont agree with this idea that he confused new zealand batsmen. yes hes a good offspinner but i think its a bit farfetched to say he ripped new zealand apart in the second innings.

  • on December 9, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    Since the off-spinner Shane made a great impact in the second innings, I reckon they will be forced to take two spicialist spinners for the next engagement.... I think the green top can be deceiving as well. West Indies pace attack is not that powerful of the likes of Ambrose, Walsh, Marshal, etc.... once Sammy is fully fit and ready for the match, I think the tourists should go for the extra spin.... Narine may not have done well in the five-day version but New Zealand is not that giant team and the experimentation is much needed now.....given the fact the series is still open...

  • Frayninho21 on December 9, 2013, 19:00 GMT

    If Windies win the toss and bowl than Sammy should take the new ball with Best instead of Gabriel. Yes, he is only medium paced but he gets it to move around a little bit and will bowl fuller and make the batsmen play more.

  • wirus on December 9, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    Thing is in fairness a test match is not the place for a young bowler to learn the basics of his craft. That should have happened in first class cricket both back home and also in one or two other sorts of conditions, i.e. county or state level cricket overseas but that no longer is the case for WI bowlers (or batsmen) and both the pitches and the standard of batting at home gives an inflated impression of the bowler. Hence why they struggle so badly at international level until they learn somewhat by hard and often humiliating experience. This is why most WI bowlers do not reach anything like test standard until they are around 30 years old but by then so much damage has been done to their psyche that they never go on and fulfill their potential. Or something odd happens and they disappear (like Jerome Taylor and now Andre Russell). Somehow WI have to get early exposure to their batsmen and bowlers to different and more testing conditions before they enter test cricket.

  • InsideHedge on December 9, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    @Rally_Windies: No, that would be Shaun Pollock, who played for the Durban based Natal alongside Marshall. Orange Free State was where Allan Donald plied his trade.

    But I agree with your sentiments. West Indies should buck the trend and just pick their best bowlers even if it's against normal convention. I like the sound of Warnie's "if it seams, it spins". WI should go with both Shillingford and Narine.

    And what is it going to take for Ravi Rampaul to be fit for a 5 day game? This strip sounds right up his alley. It's easy to criticise the WI management but if Rampaul is not 5 day fit, questions should be asked of his commitment.

  • Rally_Windies on December 9, 2013, 17:35 GMT

    Gabriel needs to get away from Gibson before permanent damage is done ..

    the last thing the WI needs is another Ottis Gibson ie : "Big, Strong, menacing , but slow and inaccurate" ..

    Gibson was about 30+ before he started bowling well ... and he can only bowl in damn swing friendly English conditions .....

    Gibson should not be charged with Gabriel's development ...

    WI only HOPE in the fast bowling department is to hire Allan Donald ... (the man who is Malcolm Marshall's best student)

  • on December 11, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Looking at the game and I was right. Windies management got psyched out with "green top" and failed to pick Narine. NZ batting on green top are currently 187-3. Always play your best team especially with inconsistent fast bowlers.

  • rayinto on December 10, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    The pacers are ineffective anyway - so play your best bowlers meaning both Shillingford and Narine should be in the squad.I thought Sammy was injured...he must be iron man! When last he missed a game!

  • everfaithful77 on December 10, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    You know I really love this CRICINFO blog. THE COMMENTS TO THIS REPORT ARE AMONG THE MOST WELL INFORMED AND LOGICAL I"VE EVER READ. Great going guys. If bloggers can always keep it simple and to the point like this in all int'l cricket then I think all teams will benefit and our contributions will be truly appreciated. On the 2nd test I think most of us agree that WINDIES NEED TO PLAY THE BEST BOWLERS available on this tour: SHILLINGFORD, NARINE, BEST and ofcourse SAMMY plays as captain. GABRIEL has the pace but not the control needed at this level and clearly this is something the coach needs to help him with. NARINE definitely troubled the Kiwis in the previous series played in the Caribbean so playing him should be a no-brainer. He should've played the first test. I also agree with giving JOHNSON and CUMMINS int'l exposure in the ODI series that follows to display their skills and to identify any areas that need improvement. This is the best way to prepare them for TEST CRICKET.

  • on December 10, 2013, 2:28 GMT

    I agree with those who say play your best bowlers - Best, Sammy, Shillingford and Narine. Gabriel and Cottrell are lost at sea and need more first class experience. Plus , I don't know why West Indies were fearful to give the ball to Samuels and limiting Narine to when NZ already had a big total. Green top is temporary if a batting team bats through the first session.

  • on December 9, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    im sorry but i think shillinford wasnt getting the new zealand batsmen out in the second innings... brendan, hamish played shots which got themselves out. I'm sorry but i dont agree with this idea that he confused new zealand batsmen. yes hes a good offspinner but i think its a bit farfetched to say he ripped new zealand apart in the second innings.

  • on December 9, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    Since the off-spinner Shane made a great impact in the second innings, I reckon they will be forced to take two spicialist spinners for the next engagement.... I think the green top can be deceiving as well. West Indies pace attack is not that powerful of the likes of Ambrose, Walsh, Marshal, etc.... once Sammy is fully fit and ready for the match, I think the tourists should go for the extra spin.... Narine may not have done well in the five-day version but New Zealand is not that giant team and the experimentation is much needed now.....given the fact the series is still open...

  • Frayninho21 on December 9, 2013, 19:00 GMT

    If Windies win the toss and bowl than Sammy should take the new ball with Best instead of Gabriel. Yes, he is only medium paced but he gets it to move around a little bit and will bowl fuller and make the batsmen play more.

  • wirus on December 9, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    Thing is in fairness a test match is not the place for a young bowler to learn the basics of his craft. That should have happened in first class cricket both back home and also in one or two other sorts of conditions, i.e. county or state level cricket overseas but that no longer is the case for WI bowlers (or batsmen) and both the pitches and the standard of batting at home gives an inflated impression of the bowler. Hence why they struggle so badly at international level until they learn somewhat by hard and often humiliating experience. This is why most WI bowlers do not reach anything like test standard until they are around 30 years old but by then so much damage has been done to their psyche that they never go on and fulfill their potential. Or something odd happens and they disappear (like Jerome Taylor and now Andre Russell). Somehow WI have to get early exposure to their batsmen and bowlers to different and more testing conditions before they enter test cricket.

  • InsideHedge on December 9, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    @Rally_Windies: No, that would be Shaun Pollock, who played for the Durban based Natal alongside Marshall. Orange Free State was where Allan Donald plied his trade.

    But I agree with your sentiments. West Indies should buck the trend and just pick their best bowlers even if it's against normal convention. I like the sound of Warnie's "if it seams, it spins". WI should go with both Shillingford and Narine.

    And what is it going to take for Ravi Rampaul to be fit for a 5 day game? This strip sounds right up his alley. It's easy to criticise the WI management but if Rampaul is not 5 day fit, questions should be asked of his commitment.

  • Rally_Windies on December 9, 2013, 17:35 GMT

    Gabriel needs to get away from Gibson before permanent damage is done ..

    the last thing the WI needs is another Ottis Gibson ie : "Big, Strong, menacing , but slow and inaccurate" ..

    Gibson was about 30+ before he started bowling well ... and he can only bowl in damn swing friendly English conditions .....

    Gibson should not be charged with Gabriel's development ...

    WI only HOPE in the fast bowling department is to hire Allan Donald ... (the man who is Malcolm Marshall's best student)

  • on December 9, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    Would NZ have given a green top to Ambrose, Walsh, Garner, Holding, Marshall, Roberts...? ;) How things have changed.

  • on December 9, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    Don't let the pitch get you. Pick your best bowlers first. The fast bowlers in the squad has not pitched two balls in the same area for three tests now and I don't think they will start now.

  • king_kenie on December 9, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    Some here are mixing the exploits at first class cricket with the rigors of test cricket. To ask for the unproven Cummings and inconsistent Johnson is just plain ludicrous. Ravi Rampaul is way ahead in terms of talent and wicket taking ability than all other names mentioned here and only second to Roach as a test bowler in WI. Holder is the most promising young quickie in WI and that's proven by the willingness of international franchises to contract his service. Any one arguing otherwise can't get past their cognitive bias and kin-altruistic simplicity to take a hard look at the stats and allow that truth to guide their thought process.

  • wirus on December 9, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    This is one of those situations in which whatever combination is picked it could well seem, come the end of the first day or two, that the wrong people were chosen.Picking their strongest bowling line up (bearing in mind that as captain, Sammy has to be included) would mean Shilingford, Narin and Best. Gabriel seemed truly lost out there in the last match and didn't seem to know what to bowl next. Cotterel looked almost as clueless in India. Why is it that the more experienced bowlers like Best and Sammy do not position themselves at midoff or close by to keep encouraging and advising them. That could make all the difference to a young bowler. Also Best has to get it right this time. Mitchell Johnson has demonstrated what sheer pace can do to the mind of a batsman. But he has to be accurate as well as fast. Sammy has to step up his bowling (if he can). He is a great example of giving one's all but will never be a match winner but at least he must be tight. Consistent accuracy by all!

  • venkatesh018 on December 9, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    Rampaul, Cummins, Best, Narine should have the been the first choice bowlers for this trip. Instead we will once again probably get Best, Gabriel, Sammy and Shillingford/Narine at Wellington.

  • mngc1 on December 9, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    Having a green pitch would be helpful to bowlers who bowl a proper line on it. The WI pacemen are normally wayward and short. Whilst just arriving in NZ would have affected their performance, they have been very wayward more often than not. Narine and Shillingford thrive with extra bounce. Narine's figures against NZ are 12 for 308 on dead wickets. Shillingford's 4 in the 2nd inning took out the NZ top. I hope they play both of these bowlers in the second test. My picks would be Powell (or Braithwaite), Edwards, Bravo, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Deonarine, Ramdin, Sammy (or Best), Narine, Shillingford, Cottrell (or Best)

  • siltbreeze on December 9, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    As a neutral, it's clear to me that WI should play both Shillingford and Narine, no matter how the pitch looks. If this means only two quicks on a green top, so be it - NZ are vulnerable against quality spin and WI simply don't have the seamers out there to take advantage of the conditions. If you asked the NZ batsmen whether they'd rather face Narine or Gabriel/Cottrell, I'm pretty sure what the answer would be.

  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 9:34 GMT

    @SNIFFLEATHER I hope you're right. Why aren't either Cummins or Johnson even given a shot in ODI's? Holder is worse than Gabriel for me, I mean neither do anything with the ball but atleast Gabriel has a lil mor pace and potential to be intimidating. Hopefully at least one of those 2 guys is given a shot to perform in the 3 ODI's out here so we can get a look at them.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on December 9, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Its heartening to see West Indies show such character. This is by far the best performance I have seen by any West Indies side abroad since the mid 90s.

  • SNIFFLEATHER on December 9, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    Well, if only young Miguel Cummins or Delorn Johnson had been selected...for sure, they have the speed, aggression, height, accuracy and no fear factor required. And they both take wickets...regularly. Gabriel needs more work, his development is far from complete. Cottrell wasn't at his usual standard over in India, almost seeming weak at times (illness perhaps...?). Let's hope he gets a game here and shows us what he can really do. Tino Best must bowl better lines. His pace will always trouble batsmen, even the top tier players but only if he bowls straight. Without Kemar Roach, the attack looks completely different as we knew it would but the young guys must be given an extended run in the side. Calls for Rampaul are understandable but his attitude toward fitness is similar to Sarwan's - a disgrace. Don't be tempted to go back to Fidel Edwards either - that would be another step backward. Narine should play in this game, he could prove a real handful on this deck.

  • StevieS on December 9, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    At last a proper New Zealand wicket, predicting Southee and Boult will bowl them out for under 150 if we bowl first.

  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    @viv-sobers Well there is no one else and picking bowlers for 1 game especially young pace bowlers and then dropping them isn't going to do anything for them but kill their confidence. W.I problem is they selected 4 spinners(3 specialist 1 allrounder) for a NZ tour with just 3 pacers and Sammy, 2 of those pacers are very inexperienced and Best is a strike-bowler who should be used in bursts. They really needed another seem allrounder or a more experienced guy like Rampaul that can be relied upon to bowl areas and still trouble batsman but they haven't so they will have to back the young guys and Best to go hard.

  • Mayaro_Man on December 9, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    @Brutalanalyst, interesting thoughts. On form you'd say drop Marlon, but on class you'd think drop Deonarine. Sammy as a batsman, possibly to bowl a few, along with Best and Cotterell (Gabriel just does not bowl the length for NZ pitches and does nothing with the ball) and include Narine who bowls quackish, more like a type of seam up anyway. Since we are speculating, how about leaving out an opener and asking either Marlon or Deonarine to open which allows Sammy to play and the extra spinner?

  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    Cotrell Best and Gabriel should all play here. If Sammy is playing he should focus more on his batting WI have to chose to gamble by leaving out either Deonarine or Samuels for Narine you cannot play 1 pacebowler and Sammy and expect to get 10 wickets they will continue to get slaughtered.

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  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    Cotrell Best and Gabriel should all play here. If Sammy is playing he should focus more on his batting WI have to chose to gamble by leaving out either Deonarine or Samuels for Narine you cannot play 1 pacebowler and Sammy and expect to get 10 wickets they will continue to get slaughtered.

  • Mayaro_Man on December 9, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    @Brutalanalyst, interesting thoughts. On form you'd say drop Marlon, but on class you'd think drop Deonarine. Sammy as a batsman, possibly to bowl a few, along with Best and Cotterell (Gabriel just does not bowl the length for NZ pitches and does nothing with the ball) and include Narine who bowls quackish, more like a type of seam up anyway. Since we are speculating, how about leaving out an opener and asking either Marlon or Deonarine to open which allows Sammy to play and the extra spinner?

  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    @viv-sobers Well there is no one else and picking bowlers for 1 game especially young pace bowlers and then dropping them isn't going to do anything for them but kill their confidence. W.I problem is they selected 4 spinners(3 specialist 1 allrounder) for a NZ tour with just 3 pacers and Sammy, 2 of those pacers are very inexperienced and Best is a strike-bowler who should be used in bursts. They really needed another seem allrounder or a more experienced guy like Rampaul that can be relied upon to bowl areas and still trouble batsman but they haven't so they will have to back the young guys and Best to go hard.

  • StevieS on December 9, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    At last a proper New Zealand wicket, predicting Southee and Boult will bowl them out for under 150 if we bowl first.

  • SNIFFLEATHER on December 9, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    Well, if only young Miguel Cummins or Delorn Johnson had been selected...for sure, they have the speed, aggression, height, accuracy and no fear factor required. And they both take wickets...regularly. Gabriel needs more work, his development is far from complete. Cottrell wasn't at his usual standard over in India, almost seeming weak at times (illness perhaps...?). Let's hope he gets a game here and shows us what he can really do. Tino Best must bowl better lines. His pace will always trouble batsmen, even the top tier players but only if he bowls straight. Without Kemar Roach, the attack looks completely different as we knew it would but the young guys must be given an extended run in the side. Calls for Rampaul are understandable but his attitude toward fitness is similar to Sarwan's - a disgrace. Don't be tempted to go back to Fidel Edwards either - that would be another step backward. Narine should play in this game, he could prove a real handful on this deck.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on December 9, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Its heartening to see West Indies show such character. This is by far the best performance I have seen by any West Indies side abroad since the mid 90s.

  • BRUTALANALYST on December 9, 2013, 9:34 GMT

    @SNIFFLEATHER I hope you're right. Why aren't either Cummins or Johnson even given a shot in ODI's? Holder is worse than Gabriel for me, I mean neither do anything with the ball but atleast Gabriel has a lil mor pace and potential to be intimidating. Hopefully at least one of those 2 guys is given a shot to perform in the 3 ODI's out here so we can get a look at them.

  • siltbreeze on December 9, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    As a neutral, it's clear to me that WI should play both Shillingford and Narine, no matter how the pitch looks. If this means only two quicks on a green top, so be it - NZ are vulnerable against quality spin and WI simply don't have the seamers out there to take advantage of the conditions. If you asked the NZ batsmen whether they'd rather face Narine or Gabriel/Cottrell, I'm pretty sure what the answer would be.

  • mngc1 on December 9, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    Having a green pitch would be helpful to bowlers who bowl a proper line on it. The WI pacemen are normally wayward and short. Whilst just arriving in NZ would have affected their performance, they have been very wayward more often than not. Narine and Shillingford thrive with extra bounce. Narine's figures against NZ are 12 for 308 on dead wickets. Shillingford's 4 in the 2nd inning took out the NZ top. I hope they play both of these bowlers in the second test. My picks would be Powell (or Braithwaite), Edwards, Bravo, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Deonarine, Ramdin, Sammy (or Best), Narine, Shillingford, Cottrell (or Best)

  • venkatesh018 on December 9, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    Rampaul, Cummins, Best, Narine should have the been the first choice bowlers for this trip. Instead we will once again probably get Best, Gabriel, Sammy and Shillingford/Narine at Wellington.