New Zealand help themselves to runs aplenty
A solid batting effort from New Zealand had West Indies against the wall on the second day at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. Stephen Fleming grabbed the bowling by the scruff of the neck to hit a fluent 97, Peter Fulton stroked his maiden Test fifty and Nathan Astle held firm after a minor collapse as New Zealand gathered a healthy 143-run lead.
Fleming was the perfect senior partner in a 165-run stand for the third wicket with Fulton and played as authoritative an innings as it can get. He had come to the crease with New Zealand on 3 for 2 and provided the much-needed damage control from the word go, cutting Ian Bradshaw through point for boundaries in four successive overs. Fluent in the arc between cover-point and gully, he took a particular liking to Bradshaw's inconsistency. A half-volley outside off was caressed through covers, a long-hop was dismissed over square leg for six, and two full-pitched deliveries were eased between the bowler and mid-on as Fleming announced his intentions. It was just what New Zealand needed and Fleming could not have timed his counter-attack better.
Elegant to the point of appearing lazy, Fleming was at the top of his game today, crunching drives off the back foot or whipping anything full on the legs through square. After lunch, he refused to get bogged down by Chris Gayle's tight spell and slapped a four past gully and a chip past mid-on to keep himself ticking. He was helped by the return of Bradshaw and got himself to two more boundaries square of the wicket for good measure. Fleming went into the nineties for the first time at the Basin Reserve with the shot of the day - a perfect straight drive for four off Fidel Edwards - and eased a four through his favorite region to get to 97. But he fell short of the landmark when he slashed at Dwayne Bravo and was caught at wide third man two deliveries later. However, his innings had put New Zealand firmly on top, .
Fulton played very well for his 75 and his contribution to the stand was priceless. Essentially a square-on player, he was allowed room to free his arms and this is where he grew in confidence. A stunning lofted drive over long-off for maximum off Gayle took him into the forties, and in the bowler's next over he repeated the shot on the other side of the pitch to get to his maiden Test fifty. Technique is essential to any innings, and Fulton impressed in his ability to get right behind the ball and work around the basics. A third six brought up the New Zealand lead before tea.
He fell first ball after the break as, in a momentary lapse of concentration, he was rooted to the crease and edged Daren Powell to the `keeper. Powell then removed Scott Styris and Brendon McCullum - brilliantly taken by an air-borne Denesh Ramdin - but a gem of a partnership between Astle and Daniel Vettori flattened the opposition once again. At ease against pace and spin, Astle was quick to punish anything short and helped himself to another fifty. His 86-run stand with Vettori, who cantered to 42 before falling to Edwards just before stumps, ensured that the hard work done by Fleming and Fulton did not go to waste.
The post-tea spell aside, the bowling was pedestrian for most of the day, and West Indies only enjoyed wickets in two bursts. Having nabbed Hamish Marshall and Jamie How with full, swinging deliveries in a frenetic opening burst, both new-ball bowlers turned to half-track mode and their threat was quickly negated. Bradshaw was wayward, Edwards was energetic but testing only in patches, while Rawl Lewis, bowling his legspinners in a Test for the first time since 1998, was workmanlike. Powell, with 3 for 69, was the most successful bowler. Fifteen no-balls didn't help, and the fielding left a lot to be desired. Catches went down with regularity - mid-off, fine leg and second slip each spilt straightforward chances - and both veteran and rookie made sure to cash in on these lapses in the first two sessions.
From start to finish, West Indies were made to toil. Play had began a half-hour early to make up for lost time on a rain-interrupted first day, and Kyle Mills did not need long to send them packing for 192. Taking a leaf from yesterday's hero James Franklin, Mills kept the ball up to the batsmen and forced Powell and Edwards to drive loosely. His two swift strikes gave New Zealand a good start to the day before Fleming, Fulton and Astle ground West Indies into further submission and treated the supportive Wellington crowd to a batting special.
How they were out
Daren Powell c How b Mills16 (186 for 9)
Drove at a full delivery, brilliant low catch at gully
Fidel Edwards c Fleming b Mills 0 (192 for 10)
Loose drive ended up in first slip's hands
Hamish Marshall c Chanderpaul b Bradshaw 3 (3 for 1)
Tried to work it square, leading edge to short cover
Jamie How b Edwards 0 (3 for 2)
Good length ball; big inside edge onto middle stump
Stephen Fleming c Bravo b Edwards 97 (168 for 3)
Slashed a short ball to wide third man
Peter Fulton c Ramdin b Powell 75 (207 for 4)
Played away from his body, well held behind the stumps
Scott Styris c Morton b Powell 8 (219 for 5)
Pushed away outside off, good catch at second slip
Brendon McCullum c Ramdin b Powell 23 (246 for 6)
Jumped and hooked, top edge well taken overhead
Daniel Vettori c Chanderpaul b Edwards 42 (332 for 7)
Chipped a paddle shot to mid-on
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo