Ganga and Lara steady West Indies on truncated day
A day truncated first by a wet outfield and then bad light ended saw only 27.2 overs being bowled at Napier as West Indies reached 95 for 1 thanks to sensible knocks from Daren Ganga and Brian Lara. West Indies may have been happy to have been saved by rain in the first two Tests which they lost, but their last shot at redemption was seriously jolted in the final Test.
When Stephen Fleming won the toss and chose to put West Indies in at 3pm, with 47 overs to play, he held all the aces. Shane Bond had recovered fully from his illness and was firing on all cylinders, the skies were overcast and the outfield damp and slow. It was the condition of the outfield that had delayed the start of play in the first place, leaving both sides hanging. Despite all this, though, Chris Gayle and Ganga began well, as they have done more than once in this series.
Gayle in particular disregarded the 0-2 Test series scoreline, coming on the back of a 1-4 hiding in the ODIs, and played some sumptuous strokes. He drove through the off side well and played his favourite pick-up shot through the on side with ease, only occasionally struggling against the pace and bounce of Shane Bond. Gayle had struck five boundaries in his 30 when a moment of indiscretion cost him his wicket. He punched Chris Martin on the up towards short cover where Peter Fulton was placed for just such a shot.
After Gayle's error in judgment a determined Lara knuckled down and blunted the New Zealand bowling. Defensive for the best part, Lara moved exaggeratedly in his crease getting right behind the line of the ball. He was able to handle the pace of Bond quite well and even unfurled an attractive cover-drive, full flourish of the MRF bat sending the ball screaming to the cover fence.
Fleming, leading New Zealand for the 75th time in Tests, behind only Allan Border the former Australian great who led his team 93 times, sensed that his main fast bowlers were not getting much assistance from the conditions and threw the ball to Nathan Astle who bowled a tight line and length and kept one end very quiet. He troubled Lara with his nagging line, getting in a good lbw shout from which Lara was only saved by the height. When tea was taken, after 22 overs of play, Lara was on 17 while Ganga had reached 23 in West Indies' 75 for 1.
Soon after a tea break which both team really could have done without, considering the fact that they were cooling their heels in the dressing-room for the best part of two sessions, West Indies pressed on. They consciously looked to put runs on the board, and this almost resulted in a second wicked when Lara pushed Bond to gully and set off. Fortunately for the West Indies the shy at the stumps missed and Lara lived to battle on. He slapped Bond over point for a boundary, and two balls later, when the light was offered, the batsmen accepted it. Lara was on 28 and Ganga on 31, the second wicket partnership of 58 pushing West Indies along to 95 for 1, the score on which stumps were drawn soon after when the light situation failed to improve.
Chris Gayle c Fulton b Martin 30 (37 for 1)
Holed out to short cover
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo