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Responding to their captain's call, Denesh Ramdin and Shivnarine Chanderpaul lifted West Indies to respectability on the first day in Hamilton. However, their fightback didn't hide the flaws in the West Indies batting
December 19, 2013
'We might have been ahead of ourselves'
In the lead-up to the final Test, Brendon McCullum noted how wickets can fall in batches at Seddon Park. He was proved right on the opening day, during a 40-minute passage of play after lunch which appeared to have put the Test beyond the point of no return for West Indies.
That they remain with a chance of levelling the series is down to Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Denesh Ramdin, who formed a sixth-wicket stand of 200. It was a last-ditch rescue mission; although Darren Sammy is a capable batsman, West Indies' last four all made ducks in the Wellington first innings and did not go much better in the second.
That Chanderpaul was part of the bailout needs no further explanation or expansion. That Ramdin was his partner was just the response West Indies needed from their vice-captain and a player with 56 caps. Despite having had a consistent 18 months at Test level, with three of his four hundreds in that period and an average of 45.93, he had been a little anonymous in the series, with limited returns in front of the stumps (although victim of a stunning catch in Wellington) and untidy behind them.
However, this was a superbly constructed fourth Test hundred. It was the most significant of his four centuries. His first came in a high-scoring draw in Barbados (albeit West Indies were not safe when he came to the crease), his second in a dead Test at Edgbaston and his third on another flat one in Dhaka. This ton arrived with West Indies in disarray.
Ramdin had two lives, on 57 and 92, but crisply put away the loose deliveries. When he carved Trent Boult over the slips to bring up his hundred, he leapt, David Warner-like, in celebration. There was no note being pulled from his pocket this time in the style of Edgbaston in 2012, when he had a message for Viv Richards. He has learned from that error, instead there was more measured satisfaction.
"It's a little more relaxed now," Ramdin said of the dressing-room feeling after the fightback. "We were under some pressure, first day of a Test match and 80-odd for five. We needed a partnership. The legend, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, guided me through that period. I had a couple of chances, he just told me to tighten up and keep going. We worked in little partnerships. I enjoy batting with him and I guess today is an even day."
It was a day where West Indies needed senior players to respond to their captain's rallying call for hunger. Darren Bravo had been ruled out with an injured arm suffered in the nets yesterday and Shane Shillingford suspended for his action. Two of the seniors did, one of them let the side down.
Marlon Samuels has not had a good year in Test cricket. His average for 2013 is now 25.90 compared to his career mark of 35.84 and a 2012 return of 86.60. He has appeared distracted on this tour, distant when West Indies needed him to help cover for the absence of Chris Gayle.
He's had the cloud of his bowling action hanging over him - and his quicker ball has now been ruled illegal - but it is as a batsman that he has made his name and, in the broader picture of his career, it should not define him if he ever bowls again. West Indies aren't short on those to fill in with a few overs of spin. What they are short on are experienced Test batsmen.
Although he made a half-century in the first innings in Wellington, he was then all at sea against Tim Southee in the second. The feet were stuck. They weren't moving very well again here. Facing his ninth ball, he threw his hands into a drive away from his body and skewed a catch to gully, which Kane Williamson grasped at the third attempt.
At any time, the shot would have been loose but, to compound matters, it came at a bad time, too, shortly after Kraigg Brathwaite and Kirk Edwards had fallen in the space of 13 deliveries. Whatever a batsman's natural inclination - and wanting to counter-attack is not without merit - it was a time just to leave a few deliveries alone.
Two overs later, when Narsingh Deonarine fell to one of those marginal lbws that often seem to go against a losing team, West Indies were facing embarrassment. Although they had been put in - the 10th Test in a row in New Zealand where a side had been inserted - conditions were the most benign they had been on a first day in the series. Enough factors really pointed towards it being a bat-first occasion, but McCullum likes to unleash his bowlers. However, unless New Zealand build a huge first-innings, it means they'll be chasing against West Indies' spin.
Either side of four wickets falling for nine runs in 34 balls, there was little to discomfort the batsmen. The bowlers began trying to force things to happen and but the pitch did not have the swing, seam or pace of Wellington. Ish Sodhi created the occasional moments of unease - and West Indies, having picked a spin-heavy attack will not have minded seeing a couple turn - but there were enough loose deliveries to keep the batsmen ticking.
It also showed how careless that period after lunch had been. It almost cost West Indies the Test on the first day. It may yet prove a key period, because this is a good batting surface but, for now, the contest remains alive after a partnership that helped restore pride in West Indies cricket.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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