O'Brien & McIntosh give NZ the edge
It wasn't the most entertaining batting display but New Zealand's cautious approach took them to a position of safety in the second day of the deciding Test at McLean Park. That the run rate didn't cross two for 52 overs seemed like a throwback to an earlier era but the most significant aspect of the reply was that they lost only one wicket on their way to 145.
The pace of the game was much quicker in the opening session when New Zealand took just over an hour to wrap up the visitors for 307. Iain O'Brien cut short West Indies' hopes of reaching 400 by running through the tail and finishing with career-best figures of 6 for 75, combining with Brendon McCullum for three of his dismissals in the first session.
The application shown by the tail had little in common with Shivnarine Chanderpaul's. Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell fell while attempting big hits and Fidel Edwards was cleaned up plumb in front. Resuming on his overnight 100, Chanderpaul could add only a further 26 before running out of partners. The early dismissals forced him to innovate and he played some pleasing cuts.
Chanderpaul's selling point is his patience and while the tail failed to take any inspiration from it, Daniel Flynn and Tim McIntosh certainly did. New Zealand saw off a testing nine overs before lunch with the West Indies seamers regularly clocking over 140 kph. The pattern didn't change too much after lunch and Jamie How, in an attempt to push the scoring, perished to a tame pull to square leg.
McIntosh was very careful around his offstump and, like his partner Flynn, was content letting deliveries go to the keeper. His attempt at trying something out of the box should have cost him his wicket but he was saved by the combined indecision of Edwards and Denesh Ramdin. As the ball swirled in the air after a miscued pull, both converged but couldn't figure out the next course of action and watched the ball land on the turf.
The outfielders didn't have much to do in the middle session when New Zealand played out 19 maidens. The spinners, Chris Gayle and Sulieman Benn, were initially just as miserly with New Zealand not looking to push on.
McIntosh finally sparked some life into his dour knock when he got well forward to the spinners and picked boundaries through the off side. He reached his maiden fifty off a sweetly timed push past mid-off for four off Gayle. The knock will ease his nerves and also those of the selectors who turned to him before this series to solve the opening conundrum.
Flynn carried on his good touch from Dunedin but he too dropped anchor for most part. He opened up once Brendan Nash came in to give the seamers a breather and carted two sixes over the on side. Like Flynn, he too opened up against the spinners and scored three boundaries off Gayle. He survived a close shout for a caught behind off Edwards, the replays showing the ball brushing his body. Edwards had the last laugh though, claiming a sharp return catch as well as his 100th Test wicket after Flynn passed fifty.
Bad light intervened twice in the final session, first in the 56th over and then again more than an hour later. Flynn fell in the passage between the two but unlike the events around the same time on the first day, his dismissal didn't lead to another. Ross Taylor gave McIntosh company when play was extended for nearly an hour past the scheduled stumps.
With the new ball 12 overs away, West Indies will look to break through early tomorrow and try match O'Brien's efforts.