Gayle's 197 guides West Indies to a satisfying draw
Chris Gayle's magnificent 197 ensured West Indies held seventh spot on the rankings after securing a draw in the second Test that left the series squared at 0-0. Gayle's hundred pushed the tourists to 375 in their second innings and despite some nervous moments while Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Jamie How were in full flow, New Zealand were unable to move within reach of the target of 312. Ryder finished with 59 not out as the hosts ended the day at 220 for 5.
New Zealand knew there was no hope in continuing the pursuit after Brendon McCullum was given out by Rudi Koertzen after he heard an edge on the way through to Denesh Ramdin. McCullum was unhappy with the decision and asked for a referral, with the third umpire sending the judgment back to Koertzen after the replays were inconclusive. That made McCullum even grumpier and he exited swinging his bat in disgust. The call left New Zealand at 203 for 5 and 6.5 overs later the captains agreed to end the game early.
Ryder scored his third consecutive half-century of the series and played sensibly to act as the mainstay of the innings in the end. He looked to bat around Taylor initially and then McCullum before their dismissals. The result kept New Zealand in eighth, one spot above Bangladesh.
Taylor was very much the aggressor after tea, slog-sweeping Gayle for two consecutive sixes over midwicket, the second of which landed on the roof of a stand. However, he walked across his stumps and was trapped in front by Suliemann Benn, leaving the field annoyed at the end of his 46 off 50 balls. Taylor and Ryder added a brisk 74 for the fourth wicket, with the pair playing intelligently and rotating the strike as they considered their tactics for the challenging target.
How breathed some life into the New Zealand innings by taking 19 off an over from Fidel Edwards, with four sweetly struck boundaries and a straight drive for three. In the next over he went to fifty off 62 balls with consecutive boundaries off Sulieman Benn, but with a distant victory in mind he edged a cut shot to Gayle at first slip. He left after a verbal exchange with Edwards, who earned his eighth wicket of the match.
The opener Tim McIntosh (3) became another victim of the referral system after Koertzen had initially turned down a close leg-before shout. West Indies asked to have another look at McIntosh pushing half-forward to a Jerome Taylor inswinger and Koertzen was forced to change his decision. West Indies gained their second wicket from a poor piece of running by How, who pushed to cover and called Daniel Flynn through but he was caught short on 33.
The draw was made possible because of Gayle's marathon innings, which finally came to an end in unlucky fashion just three short of his third double-century. Jeetan Patel dropped short and Gayle looked to pull through the vacant fine-leg position, but got a bottom edge which bounced off McCullum's right boot and rebounded for a simple catch. It was a sad way for such a fine display to end after Gayle had played in uncharacteristic fashion for a large part of his 514-minute and 396-ball display.
He began with his usual flair and panache, going to fifty off 65 balls, before knuckling down when he realised the importance of his contribution. Gayle was brutal against anything short, pulling strongly through and over square-leg and midwicket, as well as driving powerfully straight down the ground. He hit 20 fours and seven sixes and provided a strong late-innings push on the fifth day after they resumed at 278 for 7.
Edwards' long occupation ended shortly after Gayle's when Patel had him edging to Taylor at first slip for 20. The partnership between Gayle and Edwards was extremely important as they added 70 in 170 balls and took the game further from the hosts. Patel was the best bowler for the hosts, taking 5 for 110, while Daniel Vettori and James Franklin grabbed two wickets apiece.
Marc Ellison is a freelance sports writer