WI bullish after Dunedin fightback
December 11-15, 2013, Wellington
Start time 10.30am (2130GMT previous day)
The Big Picture
Dunedin ended as one of those Tests that would take some explaining if one day we find life on another planet: five days of sweat and toil, then it rains and everyone troops off with a draw. Yet it was also a terrific example of what makes Test cricket so brilliant. There were two double centuries, some artful swing bowling, some skillful spin, some terrific catches and some drops, plus just a little bit of controversy.
After two-and-a-half days of being comprehensively outplayed there was a fear that, like in India, West Indies would not provide much of an opposition. Now they have shaken off the jetlag, chipped off the rust and - apart from the odd cold - started to get used to New Zealand weather. While New Zealand skulked out of Dunedin frustrated and bemoaning their luck, West Indies had a spring in their step not only because the rain saved them but also because they helped save themselves.
Now, though, they need to play as they did for the second half of that Test all over again - and from the start. Consistency is what coach Ottis Gibson and captain Darren Sammy are striving for, to make performances of Darren Bravo's ilk more the norm than the surprise.
They remain second-favourites in this series, largely due to the problems in their pace-bowling attack. The quicks are likely to get a pitch to help them in Wellington, but it remains to be seen whether Tino Best, Shannon Gabriel and maybe Sheldon Cottrell have the patience and skill to exploit them. Sammy, seemingly recovering well from his injury, could be the man best suited.
In the corresponding Test against England in March, following another long spell in the field in Dunedin, New Zealand were slow starters (it is the last time England reached 400 in a Test). There may be a little bit of neither the batsmen or the bowlers really wanting first use of the pitch, one lot because it could move all over the place and the second because of their workload. Some spicy pitches, though, are just what Test cricket needs.
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Watch out for
Trent Boult bowled some superbly skillful spells in Dunedin - he also bowled a lot of overs. Both in Dunedin and early in the year Auckland his efforts with the ball have deserved more than a draw. He wants a chance to rekindle the team song. "The boys are always eager to sing that and a handful of guys haven't actually sung that song yet." Boult has shown the ability to swing the ball when others struggle; in helpful conditions he could be lethal.
Darren Sammy came into the first Test under significant pressure after a poor series in India and he responded impressively with bat and ball. Before his injury he was the most consistent West Indies seamer and his 80 in the second innings was a vital part of saving the Test. On flat pitches he is not a third-seamer in Test cricket, but if the Wellington surface offers some help for those who find a consistent line and length he may just be the man.
Kane Williamson scored 140 in a Hawke Cup match over the weekend and came through the bowling and fielding aspects of the outing. He will replace Aaron Redmond at No. 3. Elsewhere it is likely to be as-you-were with Brendon McCullum favouring a balanced attack.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 Peter Fulton, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
West Indies' pace-bowling options are limited. Shannon Gabriel was poor in Dunedin but Sammy suggested that they will show faith in him. Apart from Kieran Powell all the batsmen made at least one contribution in the first Test although Denesh Ramdin needs to produce more at No. 7.
West Indies (probable) 1 Kieran Powell, 2 Kirk Edwards, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Shane Shillingford, 10 Tino Best, 11 Shannon Gabriel
Pitch and conditions
It's green. How green it remains on Wednesday morning will be the key factor. Often there is the promise of more than actually eventuates. Either way, the captain winning the toss is almost certain to bowl. The forecast, as often for Wellington, is mixed with the first day set to be perfect but the risk of some rain later in the match. All the more reason for a lively pitch.
Stats and trivia
- Craig McMillan, the former New Zealand batsman, was drafted into the current set-up as a batting coach for the two warm-up days to this Test as Bob Carter was away at a wedding.
- New Zealand have not won a Test at the Basin Reserve in their last seven attempts since thrashing Bangladesh in 2008. In 2006 they beat West Indies by 10 wickets.
- New Zealand have two more chances to avoid 2013 being only the third time they have not won a Test in a calendar year having played at least 10 matches.
"We've seen some very good spinners come to New Zealand in recent history and it's not necessarily a place where they really prosper. I wouldn't be too upset if they played two spinners. I would be very surprised if they did."
Having looked at the pitch, Brendon McCullum would like to be confronted with two spinners
"I think they were playing their best cricket and yet still they didn't get the victory they deserved. We are keen to put pressure on them."
Darren Sammy has taken plenty of encouragement from his team's fightback in Dunedin
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo