West Indies coach Stuart Law admitted that the peculiar nature of Neil Wagner's short ball shook up West Indies, but refused to use that as an excuse after their batting collapse on the opening day of the Wellington Test. Wagner ripped through West Indies for career-best returns of 7 for 39 and sent them hurtling to 134 all out. Six of his wickets came with the short ball.
"Wagner's a funny character. He's not very tall, he's not super-quick, but his bumper skids and it doesn't really bounce. And as a batsman, it can be off-putting," Law said. "Some can go over your head, some just skid into your throat. So, yeah, fair play to him; he bowled well and bowled aggressively. I think we helped him out with a few freebies, but all in all, New Zealand bowled well.
"Our boys generally bounce back better after they know what they're up against, and know the plans of the opposition. I don't think their plans will change too much. You just got to go out there and make sure you tire him out and get him to bowl multiple spells. That was the plan for each of their bowlers: get them to bowl a lot of spells, keep them out there as long as we could."
West Indies' bowlers did their bit to bring the team back, running in hard on a surface bereft of lateral movement. They were rewarded with two wickets; first, their captain Jason Holder ended a strong opening stand when Tom Latham mistimed a hook to mid-on, and then Kemar Roach sent back Kane Williamson cheaply. Even so, New Zealand had slashed the deficit down to 49 by stumps.
"Our batsmen are bitterly disappointed with their effort. I know we're a lot better than how we performed today. We tend to have a habit of not starting a series very well, but it's only day one out of five, the weather looks like it's set fair for another four days, so anything's possible in the second innings for our batters.
"But I still think we showed tremendous fight with the ball this afternoon. We bowled some good spells; Miguel Cummins playing his first Test in a while bowled exceptionally well I thought. We just need to hang on to our catches tomorrow and make sure we don't give them too much of a lead."
With New Zealand's pacers already laying out a hostile welcome, West Indies needed to keep their disciplines. But Hope perished to an ill-advised pull, Chase glanced a short ball straight into the hands of leg slip, and Dowrich was run out, paying the price for shoddy communication. Then there was Sunil Ambris, the debutant. In trying to negotiate Wagner's steep bounce, he shuffled back too far and his back heel thudded into the stumps.
"He showed no emotion. He walked back into the dressing room, shrugged his shoulders and I said, 'well, bad luck,' and that's it," Law said. "Hopefully, it's the only time he's got out like that. There are a few guys who've got out in the first ball of their Test debut and they've gone on to be pretty good. Sunil is a class player. We picked him for this game on form. He got a couple of hundreds against Sri Lanka back in the Caribbean in the A team and he got 150 the other day against a pretty good attack at Lincoln University, so he's disappointed. It's probably a freak dismissal and one hopes he doesn't step on them again at any time in his career."