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July 30, 2012
Losing two quick wickets in the first session was the turning point in New Zealand's bid to save the first Test, captain Ross Taylor has said. New Zealand began the fifth day needing the middle order to use as much time as possible to eke out a draw but Kemar Roach's quick wickets - Ross Taylor in the 11th over and, two overs later, Kane Williamson for a duck - undermined those plans.
"We had a chance to realistically draw the match. But losing two wickets - myself, Kane [Williamson] and [later] Dan's [Vettori] wickets - was key. Everyone got a start in most of the games, here we just lost our way and lost momentum," Taylor said. "Hopefully the top order can continue scoring runs, and us middle order can score some runs and help them out."
New Zealand started well in both the innings but ceded the advantage as the later batsmen failed to capitalise. In the first innings, New Zealand scored 351 after being two wickets down for 223 and in the second, they collapsed to 272 from 194 for 2. Taylor also pointed out to the failure of the set batsmen to convert their half-centuries into big hundreds. Guptill was out for 97 in the first innings and McCullum for 84 in the second.
"This hasn't been the problem in the last couple of years, this has been a problem with New Zealand cricket for the last 10-15 years now. Players haven't gone on to score hundreds. To be competitive in Test cricket for long periods of time, you need to score hundreds and you need to be hard on yourself when you don't. 80s and 90s are good for your stats, but the team needs hundreds."
A lot of that was because of pressure from West Indies spinner Sunil Narine, who picked up a wicket every time New Zealand looked settled and pose the same sort of threat as did Chris Gayle with the bat. Narine, named man-of-the-match, picked up eight wickets while Gayle hit 214 runs after being dropped early in the first innings once.
"They are a side that relies heavily on Narine and Gayle to do well for them. Gayle batted very well and gave us an opportunity but we didn't take it. Narine, if he is not taking wickets, doesn't go for lot of runs. I was pleased with the team in the way we played him. There were a few soft dismissals in the fist innings against him but other than that we played him really well."
An unlikely batsman to put up a fight against Narine and Roach on the fifth morning was debutant Neil Wagner, who played 103 balls for his 13. However, he had a tough match with the ball, managing one wicket off 38 overs.
"He [Wagner] bowled well in periods. He might be a nightwatchman for the rest of his career. He did a good job there. He has had a successful run with Otago and now he knows what his cricket is all about and I am sure it will be better for us also."
Taylor is hopeful of an improved performance when the teams meet for the second Test, New Zealand's last match on this tour, at Sabina Park from August 2. New Zealand have so far managed a solitary win on the tour - in the third ODI at Basseterre.
"We have got one more game to go, and improve in a couple of areas. I don't think we are very far away," Taylor said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough