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The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
December 14, 2008
Jerome Taylor was the unlikely hero with the bat as his frenetic century at No. 8 altered the course of the match and upset New Zealand's plans after they held the edge in the morning. Taylor bettered his previous best first-class score of 40, pounded the attack after it drifted into complacency and finally showed glimpses of his potential as a useful lower-order batsman.
He added a priceless 153 for the seventh wicket with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who scored a workmanlike 76, and the pair took West Indies within 25 of New Zealand's total. They all but extinguished the home team's hopes of victory and with a day remaining a draw loomed as the most likely result.
New Zealand began their second innings confidently with the openers adding 33 but a double-strike by Daren Powell, off successive deliveries, rounded off a poor finish to the day. Jamie How lost his middle stump and the experiment with the nightwatchman failed as Kyle Mills inside-edged on to his stumps.
It completed an eventful day on which a terrific period of scoring by Taylor and Chanderpaul was bookended by disappointing efforts from most of the other batsmen. After West Indies pushed the self-destruct button in the opening session, the second witnessed a fightback by the pair.
Taylor had the license to attack and his body language and willingness to use his feet, particularly against Daniel Vettori, infused much-needed life into the innings, which had meandered after Chris Gayle's half-century earlier in the day. Vettori had led New Zealand well by building the pressure with his accuracy and attacking field settings but after Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin departed without offering Chanderpaul much support, Taylor stepped on the gas.
It was Chanderpaul who set the ball rolling with three on-side boundaries in an over from James Franklin, who failed to get his trademark swing going. Taylor immediately launched into Vettori the following over, hitting two fours and a six flush on the sightscreen. He later peppered the midwicket region for two more sixes, the first off Vettori and then off Mills. Those hits helped him outscore his partner, and Chanderpaul was more than happy to play second fiddle.
No bowler was spared and the one who suffered the biggest pasting was Mark Gillespie. In his unusual role as spearhead he endured a torrid time, first against Gayle and then Taylor. Gillespie did not help himself by over-pitching far too often, like his fellow seamers, and Taylor crashed three boundaries off him in one over, which included an elegant square drive past backward point. Taylor's batting was far from fluky: he hit through the line and rarely played a rash stroke.
His innings progressed at more than a run a ball and despite a couple of plays and misses in the 90s when Franklin angled the ball across him, he brought up his ton in emphatic style with a square-driven boundary off Franklin. Vettori, who conceded half of his total runs when bowling to Taylor, was the first to congratulate him. He eventually dismissed Taylor for 106, off 107 balls, and amazingly, 86 of those runs came in boundaries.
Chanderpaul had the more difficult task at hand, negotiating a difficult period with Nash for a brief while after lunch, which included four consecutive maidens. Nash, in his debut Test, edged to gully for 23 while Ramdin was trapped lbw for 5. The umpire Amiesh Saheba initially adjudged him out to a ball that went on with the arm and might have slid down leg side. Ramdin appealed against the decision and after a delay of more than three minutes, Rudi Koertzen was unable to give Saheba any concrete evidence either way and the decision stood.
The wicket brought Taylor to the crease and when he went on the attack, Chanderpaul was willing to bide his time and wait for the bad ball. Iain O'Brien returned and Chanderpaul crashed him past point before delicately gliding him to third man shortly before tea. Taylor brought up his maiden fifty with a boundary wide of mid-on at the stroke of the break.
It was a relief for West Indies, who in their effort to push the scoring and turn this Test into a contest, lost four wickets in an extended opening session at the University Oval. Gayle led the charge with a typically aggressive half-century and the seamers were guilty of bowling too full in trying to search for swing. Gayle punished the loose balls and he wasn't afraid of playing across the line.
Sewnarine Chattergoon, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Xavier Marshall made starts and failed to convert them. Gayle looked to push on after reaching his fifty with a pulled boundary off Gillespie, but got a little too ambitious against O'Brien. A short delivery sat up for Gayle to cut but instead he hooked it down fine leg's throat and departed for 74 off 103 balls.
A result in this Test still looks distant but at the end of the day, the visitors enjoyed the bragging rights thanks largely to Taylor's enterprising approach.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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