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Tony Cozier in Dunedin
December 14, 2008
It wasn't perfect but it was certainly more like what John Dyson was seeking from his bowlers on the abridged third day of the first Test at shivering University Oval in Dunedin.
Following the opening day on Thursday, the West Indies head coach focused on the inability of the pace quartet to place pressure on the New Zealand batsmen, presenting too many what he termed "free hits" in spite of the seven off-side fielders.
He would have been less concerned after the home team's real prospects of a commanding total were thwarted, even on such an unhelpful pitch, by the disciplined aggression of Daren Powell, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards, with the honest, if wicketless, support of newcomer Lionel Baker. While Chris Gayle used himself for 20 overs on Thursday, he could leave it all up to his fast bowlers yesterday.
Resuming at 226 for four when play eventually started after lunch, following a delay caused by a solitary soggy spot in the slips, New Zealand's aim would have been no less than 400. They were never allowed to push full steam ahead and fell short of that goal by 35.
Taylor, fast and straight, kept attacking the stumps on a full length. He occasionally overpitched as he sought a way through but deserved more than his solitary wicket. Edwards, so wayward on the first day, announced himself with two outswingers to Brendon McCullum with the first two deliveries of the second new ball that were unplayable.
Thereafter, he struck sparks from the docile surface, always threatening physical damage and occasionally inflicting it with skidding bouncers. His reward was three wickets for 45 from 11 overs on the day and the confidence that goes with them.
Except for two boundary balls in his first over with the new ball and a couple later, Powell was as controlled as he had been on the opening day. That is not often the case.
Baker worked hard but in vain for his first Test wicket. His line is compromised by his action and delivery from wide on the crease and, at lesser pace on such a pitch, he was not a danger.
It wasn't until 15 overs into the day, and in the fifth over with the new ball, that the West Indies separated the overnight pair. The usual aggression of the heavyset left-hander Jesse Ryder and the explosive McCullum was kept in check before McCullum, feeling outside off-stump for one of the few deliveries all innings that moved in the air, edged Taylor to Denesh Ramdin.
Wickets followed not in a flood but intermittently. They had to be worked for. Edwards should have removed Ryder at 80 but Sewnarine Chattergoon spilled a regulation two-handed catch to his left at second slip. It was misfortune that seemed to rouse Edwards even more.
He inflicted a blow to the forearm of the left-handed James Franklin as he flinched from a 90-miles-an-hour skidder and then saw him step back onto his stumps on a stroke to fine leg. Franklin's backfoot slipped but the bowler had forced him further back than he should have been.
Later, Edwards claimed Kyle Mills lbw with a full length inswinger and rounded things off by harassing the last man, Iain O'Brien, with bouncers, the last of which he prodded back for a return catch.
In between, Powell accounted for Ryder and Daniel Vettori, two vital scalps. Like Daniel Flynn on the opening day, Ryder had his maiden Test hundred in sight when, 11 runs away, he slapped a short ball straight into the secure hands of Shivnarine Chanderpaul at midwicket. Adding 35 to his 54 at the start, Ryder was not quite as composed as he had been on the opening day but there was enough evidence for the West Indies to know that he is a dangerous opponent. His innings spanned four and a quarter hours and 157 deliveries, proof that he is not easily dislodged in such favourable conditions.
Neither is Vettori and it took a clever strategy to snare him this time. He had stroked 30 off 43 deliveries and was in complete control when Gayle deliberately posted Xavier Marshall at deep point. Powell executed the plan with a short, bouncing delivery which Vettori, clearly unaware of the ruse, slapped precisely into the fielder's lap.
The captain took a little time on his way back to the stand to quietly, but obviously, admonish partner, Mills, for not warning him of the field change. Mills' dismissal that followed was the second successful challenge by the West Indies under the new review system, both on rejected lbw appeals.
It accounted for Flynn on the first day and now Mills had to go once the television evidence showed the ball struck front pad prior to bat. It was a sequence that Benson seemingly got the other way round in making the original decision.
Three other reviews on the day, two to the West Indies, one to New Zealand, confirmed the standing umpire's verdict.
The closest went in favour of Chattergoon during the fraught hour the West Indies batted at the end of the extended day. The verdict was that the delivery from Mills would have passed over the stumps, if not by much.
It was relief for the little opener who, like all the batsmen, had a couple days to enjoy a run-filled pitch. By the end, Gayle was already doing so with 29 off 36 balls, including a mighty hook off Mark Gillespie for the first six of the match.
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