West Indies bowlers worry Dyson
As the rain and Arctic chill arrived in Dunedin yesterday, eliminating the entire second day of the first Test at the University Oval, West Indies' head coach John Dyson acknowledged a troubling point. He said that, since he joined the team last March for the Sri Lanka series in the Caribbean, the bowlers had struggled to take wickets on "flat, international standard pitches".
"They are fine when the pitches do something but otherwise they find it difficult to bowl dot balls that build pressure on the batsmen," Dyson said. Such was the case as New Zealand posted 226 for 4 on an opening day shortened to 73.2 overs by fading light under a heavy cloud cover.
"I thought we bowled fairly well," Dyson said. "This is a flat pitch. It's not seaming, it's not bouncing at pace and it's not turning." It was the reason for the use of a seven off-side, two leg-side field once the left-handers Tim McIntosh and Daniel Flynn became entrenched in a second wicket partnership of 87. Dyson did not accept the assertion that seeking wickets through attack, rather than containment, was the better option against opponents whose self-belief was crushed by Australia in their two Tests there last month.
New Zealand made several personnel and positional changes as a consequence, including replacing John Bracewell as head coach with Andy Moles, and were under considerable media pressure. It seemed the right time to go hard at them. Yet, apart from brief periods, the West Indies fast bowlers were content to let the batsmen make errors on their own, rather than trying to induce it.
The policy did not achieve its objective. Two of the four wickets were taken through inappropriate slogs by opener Tim McIntosh, who was caught at deep mid-on, and Ross Taylor, taken off a skier at square-leg. Another, Daniel Flynn fell for 95, ruled not out, then out lbw on the experimental umpires' review system.
All were victims of captain Chris Gayle's casual off-spin. Only opener Jamie How fell to one of the four fast bowlers. "The disappointment was that they [bowlers] presented too many loose balls and too many that were free hits," Dyson said. His point that they are as effective as any in international cricket once there is some help from the surface -and vice-versa - is borne out by events in last June's home series against Sri Lanka and Australia.
On placid pitches, Sri Lanka amassed 476 for 8 in the first Test at Providence in Guyana and Australia 431 at Sabina Park in Jamaica, 479 for 7 declared at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and 439 for 5 declared in the second innings at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown. When the pitches encouraged the bowlers, Sri Lanka were defeated after being bowled out for 278 and 268 at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad. Australia, however, won despite folding for 167 in the second innings at Sabina Park (from 18 for 5) and 251 in the first innings at Kensington.
Almost by tradition, West Indies carried four fast bowlers into the Test here, omitting the solitary specialist spinner, Sulieman Benn. "There was a lot of discussion about that," Dyson explained. "The fact that there had been a lot of rain in Dunedin in the lead-up to the Test, with the pitch mostly under covers, and an inspection the day before the match influenced the decision."