Martin expects plenty of swing
The veteran fast bowler Chris Martin believes discipline will be the key for New Zealand's attack if they are to turn their tour around with victory in the first Test against West Indies in Antigua. The match starts on Wednesday at the same ground on which New Zealand narrowly escaped with a draw in the warm-up game against the WICB President's XI over the past week, and the West Indian batsmen clearly outplayed their New Zealand counterparts during that contest.
On a pitch that Martin described as "up-and-down", Narsingh Deonarine was especially impressive with 106 and Shivnarine Chanderpaul bedded down for more than three hours for his 51. Both of those men are part of the West Indies squad for the Test and could prove difficult to pry from the crease if they get settled, and Martin said the key would be to test the patience of the batsmen.
"If you make a guy go out of his game-plan by being disciplined and hard-working, I think you've got a chance with the variable nature of the pitch," Martin said. "I think if a guy decides to camp and bat for as long as he can it's obviously a little bit more difficult for the pace bowlers to remove them. But I think as the game goes on, the variable nature of the pitch is probably going to create a little bit of havoc, so it's probably a good toss to win.
"I think the opportunity here for us on a pitch that's definitely going to have a result in it is massive. It's just a matter of us getting our games together and playing as a team and attacking pretty hard on that first day."
Remarkably for a man who is 37 and has been on the international cricket scene for 12 years, this will be Martin's first full international of any format in the Caribbean. He took 0 for 52 in the warm-up match but the game gave him an opportunity to assess the conditions, and he was confident the ball would swing.
"I've found it to swing early. It's rock hard early, and you get whatever variation you need out of the wicket, and then it becomes a little bit of a holding pattern for a while, until you can get the ball reversing," he said. "I think it softens up relatively quickly and I think the spinners find it a difficult ball if you haven't used it before to get your hands around because there's quite a big seam on it."
New Zealand need to find a way to turn their form around not only after the warm-up game but also following a 4-1 loss in the one-day series and a 2-0 defeat in the Twenty20s. Martin said on paper it appeared New Zealand should be able to match West Indies, and the key was to deny them a strong start on the first morning.
"I think they're quite a confident outfit at the moment," he said. "How we start in that first hour against them is probably going to define the series in a lot of ways. As far as the line-ups go they're pretty similar and I think if you look at the numbers across the board it's going to be a very competitive Test series. It's going to be for us a lot more about our attitude and playing together as a team to combat these guys in their home conditions."
West Indies are searching for their first series win against anyone other than Bangladesh in their past 10 series, and they will fancy their chances after the limited-overs portion of the tour. Chanderpaul, the veteran batsman, said it was important for a developing West Indies side that they earned some results for their encouraging play in recent times.
"It's very important for us," Chanderpaul said. "We've been playing for a while now. We've had a couple of wins and it would be really good to go out and win this series. We've done well in the one-day series, in the T20 games. We've done well in those couple of formats and it would be nice to crown it off in the Test series."