West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua July 24, 2012

Test lightweights scrap for rare success

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Match facts

July 25-29
Start time 1000 (1400 GMT)

Big Picture

Midway through the limited-overs leg of the tour, you felt sorry for New Zealand as, bereft of several seniors, they slid from defeat to defeat. Their stand-in captain Kane Williamson, all of 21 years old and looking even younger, earnestly defended his inexperienced team after Chris Gayle effortlessly dished out half-century after half-century.

Two senior batsmen, Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum, were available in the final two ODIs, and New Zealand will be further boosted by the arrival of two old hands, their man-for-all occasions Daniel Vettori and their pace spearhead Chris Martin. Their presence lifts a bowling line-up that looked pretty fragile during large parts of the one-day series, as does the inclusion of Neil Wagner, a man in whom New Zealand fans have placed an almost inordinate amount of faith.

New Zealand pulled off one of their greatest Test victories last year against Australia, and competed against South Africa in a home defeat. It's been more than a decade since they won a Test series away from home (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), and while they enter these contests as underdogs, it still presents them with their best opportunity for an overseas victory.

For that they need to find answers to the same players who gave them plenty of headaches in the limited-overs matches: Gayle and Sunil Narine. Gayle returns for his first Test in more than 19 months, and West Indies will hope that solves their top-order troubles; in recent series, West Indies have typically been three for almost nothing, leaving the middle-order facing a salvage job. Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been their rescuer-in-chief for years now, and his presence solidifies a batting line-up that was explosive but inconsistent in the one-dayers.

The focus will also be on Narine, who continued to be a match-winner in limited-overs matches, but is yet to show whether he can be similarly effective in the five-day game. His Test debut in England was a disaster, but on more familiar surfaces and in more comfortable temperatures, Narine should prove more dangerous. If he clicks, West Indies' chances of only their second series win in more than nine years (excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) will be considerably bright.

Form guide

(Completed games, most recent first)
West Indies DLLLD
New Zealand DLDWW

Watch out for...

Neil Wagner, the South Africa-born left-arm seamer, has dominated the domestic scene in New Zealand in recent years. The days remaining till he qualified to represent New Zealand were eagerly counted down, and he was picked as soon as he was available. He impressed in the practice match, and with fast bowlers Trent Boult and Mark Gillespie injured, he is expected to make his Test debut.

Kemar Roach was on-song against Australia in the home series earlier this year, and troubled England's batsmen as well before pulling out of the tour with an ankle injury. The warm-up game against the New Zealanders was his first match since then, and he showed he was ready to go with a four-wicket burst in the first innings. With his raw pace, Roach provides West Indies with a genuinely threatening spearhead.

Pitch and conditions

There were runs available in the warm-up match on the same ground if batsmen had the required patience, but there should be plenty of opportunity for the bowlers on this surface. Chris Martin, the New Zealand fast bowler, said: "The warm-up game showed us that if we're in the right areas for long enough the up-and-down nature of the pitch is probably going to get us results."

Team news

Gayle's return and the form of Marlon Samuels, who scored plenty of runs in the recent England Tests, means the batting burden on Chanderpaul is reduced. One of the harder decisions West Indies will have to take is who between Ravi Rampaul and Tino Best to pick.

West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Adrian Barath, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Ravi Rampaul/Tino Best, 11 Kemar Roach

With Trent Boult injured, Wagner is expected to start, possibly the only change from the XI that lined up for the final Test against South Africa.

New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daniel Flynn, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Chris Martin

Stats and trivia

  • New Zealand last lost a Test against West Indies in Barbados in 1996. Since then, they have won five and drawn five.
  • Chris Gayle is just 63 runs away from surpassing Gordon Greenidge as the highest run-getter for West Indies against New Zealand. Gayle has scored 820 runs in seven Tests at 74.54.

Quotes

"A warm-up game is a warm-up game. We got what we wanted out of it. We were lucky to come away with the draw but most of the batsmen had a decent bat out there and the bowlers got a good trundle for one innings."
New Zealand's Ross Taylor doesn't want to read too much into his team's showing in the tour match

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 777aditya on July 25, 2012, 17:48 GMT

    TINO BEST is not playing?! - bowled well and batted out of his skin against England recently - come on WI, show some heart!!!

  • dummy4fb on July 25, 2012, 14:12 GMT

    @mrpontintoyou...when WI were "killing" other teams, we did not suggest that those teams go to a lower division!!! Sure we have had a prolonged bad patch but we are on the rise!! Our biggest problem has been the WICB. If the right team is selected, we can compete with ANY team in the world. A team of Gayle, Barath, Sarwan, Darren Bravo, Chandrapaul, Samuels, Ramdin (capt), Taylor, Roach, Ramphal and Narine will give any team in the world a strong fight for their money!!!

  • dummy4fb on July 25, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    West Indies all the way but why oh Why isnt Tino Best playing after last time nearly getting 100s in his last test and taking wickets

  • dummy4fb on July 25, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    West Indies should take this series 2-0. The WI are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. No doubt Gayle's return has given this team a boost!! The WICB may not like Gayle but it is obvious the players love him. This is a good time to recall Sarwan as well, he will solidify the number 3 slot and with Gayle, Samuels and Shiv, they give the West Indies a formidable lineup. The call between Best and Ramphal to me is not as tough as most people think. If you look at the last 2 years of WI test cricket, Ramphal has almost always gotten that early breakthrough for WI. Best has real pace and brings lots of energy to the field but is too emotional and lacks focus at times...Go Windies!!!

  • rsgarcia on July 25, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    @MrPontingToYou, be careful what you wish for. Australia might just slide down to that second tier sooner than you think, given those impending retirements, your fragile newbies and your current test ranking. It's ridiculous to talk of two tiers. How will lower ranked teams get better if they don't play the best? Such selfish talk ignores the reality of sport. If all are given a fair chance to play, the best will rise to the top. It's how Jamaica is now a track and field world player after years of nothing when the USA dominated. When I hear two tier talk, I hear teams who are desperate to hold on to their top spots and eyeing improving lower ranked teams with anxious eyes.

  • dummy4fb on July 25, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    rampaul should be in the team.... the decision should be between best and roach

  • SNIFFLEATHER on July 25, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    MrPontingToYou...

    Perhaps YOU should be demoted to a second level of posting, after your recent post

  • Baundele on July 25, 2012, 13:03 GMT

    Excluding Bangladesh from the stats is good for West Indies. Their whitewash against Bangladesh can be forgotten about. ;)

  • Jester01 on July 25, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    "Lightweight" thats a bit harsh... So that will that make England "Mini flyweight" seeing that the Kiwi's didn't lose by an innings to SA when they visited their shores. I'm a SA supporter but can't wait for Chris Gayle's return to the test arena. Good luck to both teams.

  • mar2000 on July 25, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    Will i be hearing the same when WI are back at the top and the now top half is at the bottom.

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