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A key bowler suspended, the other bowlers struggling to take wickets and batsmen unable to cope with swing. Can any of West Indies' reserves make a difference?
December 16, 2013
News : ICC suspends Shillingford for illegal bowling action
News : Gibson asks West Indies to 'man up'
News : Bowlers failed in helpful conditions - Sammy
Players/Officials: Sunil Narine | Sheldon Cottrell | Kraigg Brathwaite | Veerasammy Permaul | Chadwick Walton
Series/Tournaments: West Indies tour of New Zealand
Teams: West Indies
The optimism generated by West Indies' fightback in Dunedin - even though without the rain it would have still ended in defeat - disappeared in the space of three days in Wellington. Now their key bowler, Shane Shillingford, has been suspended from bowling two days out from the final Test. So who is there in the squad that West Indies can turn to?
Suddenly a bowler with 15 wickets at 48.06 is West Indies' big hope. That is largely based around his performances against New Zealand in the Caribbean where he took 12 of those Test scalps in two matches. New Zealand have had problems against spin - and did not play Shillingford well in the second innings in Dunedin, although that was down to over-aggression - but the pitch is likely to be another with a good covering of grass. Still, the batsmen have not seen anything of Narine for a while so he could catch a few by surprise.
What Ottis Gibson said: "Looking at New Zealand, if I was in their camp it would probably be another green seamer. They've got three seamers who are swinging it and causing us problems so I don't see why they'd change the format. "
Johnson, Boult…Cottrell. Probably not, but West Indies' three right-arm pacemen have not caused New Zealand's batsmen too many worries so a change of angle could be useful. He would probably have to replace Shannon Gabriel, who improved in the second Test, because there will be a reluctance to ditch Tino Best as, for all his waywardness, he has caused a few problems. West Indies are also desperate for someone who can generate some swing.
What Gibson said: "It's a constant work in progress to get people thinking clearly under pressure and understanding you need to be a bit fuller on this pitch when the ball is new. Our bowlers are probably a little quicker than theirs and we have bowled a bit short. But if it's not swinging you can't pitch it up to quality batsmen. It's finding the right length. We find it sometimes three balls out of six. We have been inconsistent with everything we have done. As a bowling group we haven't stuck to plans for long enough."
Delayed by visa difficulties, Brathwaite eventually joined the squad in Wellington. The 21-year-old has played nine Tests and scored four half-centuries. Prior to the series the plan was likely to be for him to open alongside Kieran Powell, but the delay in arriving meant Kirk Edwards had to take on the role and he has made some gusty contributions. Powell has reached double figures in six of his last eight Test innings but has not gone past 48 which is wasteful. Brathwaite's lack of recent cricket counts against him, but the incumbent batsmen need to feel pressure from somewhere.
What Gibson said: "We have faced swing bowling before. Last time we went to England we faced swing bowling. some of us got undone a little bit. Marlon Samuels had a great series, but this is high quality swing bowling at good pace and we haven't been able to deal with it in this game."
The left-arm spinner and reserve wicketkeeper are the two least likely players to figure in the final Test. If West Indies really wanted to pick from left field they could still play two frontline spinners with Permaul alongside Narine, either with just two seamers or as part of a five-man attack on the basis that they have to take 20 wickets. Denesh Ramdin, as vice-captain, will hold his place but his keeping has been poor in this series and the batting unconvincing - although his second innings at Wellington was ended by a contender for catch of the year - while Walton made an unbeaten 61 in the warm-up match.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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