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

Green pitch may stymie West Indies spin

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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

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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...

  • Frayne213 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)

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