West Indies' Best hasn't been enough
Tino Best's attempt to catch Trent Boult on the deep midwicket boundary summed up his performance. A lot of effort but without the finishing touch that West Indies needed. The coach Ottis Gibson, who stood behind the boundary at the exact position Best palmed the ball over the rope, was not impressed.
It was another infuriating innings from Best, both in the field and with the ball. Effort and endeavour are commendable, but sometimes you wonder if he could dial back on the emotion and concentrate a little more on keeping the ball full around off stump. That's what was needed in the first innings in Wellington, but consistency has never been a hallmark of Best's career. The four wicket part of Best's analysis is fine; conceding over five-an-over, even as the strike bowler, is too much when part of a limited bowling attack.
This was not a situation to try and force results from the pitch. As Ross Taylor pointed out the previous evening, although the ball did not jag around, there was enough movement to reward patience. The first ball of the Test should have shown him the way, pinning Peter Fulton on the crease, even though the batsman was saved by DRS. Then there was the delivery Taylor drove at, edging to third slip on nought where the catch was put down. The innings, both for Best and West Indies, could have looked very different.
However, it appears that even Darren Sammy's patience with Best is beginning to wear thin. On the first morning, he was given a two-over spell before being whipped out of the attack. On the second day, it was even briefer; one over then banished to the outfield while the captain took over. Before the first Test, Sammy implored Best take leadership of the attack in the absence of Kemar Roach but, on a pitch which should have left pace bowlers licking their lips, Sammy was not able to trust him.
Stuart Williams, the assistant coach, said none of the bowlers could escape blame after a morning session that cost 134 runs in 25 overs and he did not gloss over the fielding: "We didn't bowl well at all, we weren't consistent enough especially with the new ball and that cost us. Hopefully, in the next innings we will put it right. Our fielding wasn't up to international standard."
Best, to his credit, did respond well when he was brought back into the attack. He found Ish Sodhi's outside edge and on the next ball, with a full-length delivery, forced Neil Wagner to nick to second slip. However, there was an almost 50-50 split between the off and leg side to where New Zealand's batsmen scored their runs off him. That may not sound a hanging offence - and Best's primary role is not to restrict runs - but it means there was little consistency in his line.
Best's 24 Tests have been spread over more than 10 years since his debut against Australia, in Barbados, in March 2003. His most impressive, consistent performance came against England in 2004 when he had the batsmen hopping around on some lively Caribbean pitches. His duels with Nasser Hussain, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe were memorable. It was in the first Test of that series, at Sabina Park, that he claimed his first Test wicket after waiting more than a year to add to his first cap. Thorpe hooked to long leg and Best sprinted to the boundary in celebration.
There were two more considerable gaps in his Test career; four years between 2005 and 2009 then another from 2009 to 2012 having briefly been recalled to face Bangladesh when failed contract negotiations saw a shadow West Indies side take the field.
The most recent return against England, at Edgbaston, in 2012 was memorable for his 95 at No. 11. It was evidence that age had not wearied his competitive spirit, but West Indies need maturity to be moulded with the extrovert. In his next three Tests he claimed 16 wickets - including 12 in two matches in Bangladesh, not a lucrative place for fast bowling - but his last six matches, which includes this current game, has brought 10 wickets at 55 with an economy of over four.
Williams backed him to respond from the tough innings. "Tino will always be his normal self," he said. "He is one of characters. He has a positive attitude and will forget about it very quickly. He gives you energy on and off the field. Having a bad spell won't deter him."
Not that West Indies are flush with other options. This is one West Indies' weakest pace attacks in memory. Shannon Gabriel responded from his dire Dunedin performance with a far more creditable showing, but as Sammy remarked before the Test, it's a sign of the times that New Zealand are very content to play on heavily-grassed surfaces.
New Zealand's bowlers were not perfect in reply - Neil Wagner, especially, struggled with his length and his footing - but the four wickets to fall showed the value of keeping the ball up to the bat. The regularity with which Kirk Edwards drove at Tim Southee, before getting his leading edge to cover, showed how a captain needs to keep his nerve and, with more than 400 on the board, the slip cordon (and close catching men on the off side) remained well stocked throughout.
Although Darren Bravo failed on this occasion and Edwards was careless, West Indies' batsmen have shown encouraging signs of learning on the job during the early stages of this series. Now the quick bowlers need to follow suit.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo