Gayle and Powell deflate New Zealand
West Indies 145 for 0 (Gayle 85*, Powell 58*) trail New Zealand 351 (Guptill 97, Narine 5-132) by 206 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Chris Gayle didn't show any nerves or caution after slipping into Test whites for the first time in one and a half years, smashing 85 not out and sharing an unbeaten opening stand of 145 with Kieran Powell to demoralise New Zealand on the second day. It was a day on which the hosts took complete control, with bat and ball. Sunil Narine did justice to the hype surrounding him by taking his maiden five-wicket haul to restrict New Zealand to 351, after the visitors were well-placed on the opening day to post a more competitive score.
The few who bothered to show up at North Sound witnessed another Gayle special. It was as if he was still wearing one of his many Twenty20 jerseys when he walked out and thundered four consecutive boundaries in the first over of the innings. Gayle needed only two deliveries to warm up. Chris Martin pitched it full and Gayle pushed forward a touch reluctantly and yet found the timing to beat mid-on. The next three balls were all thrashed past mid-off, the last ball of the over sent soaring over the infield. Gayle was harsh on anything pitched up or full on the off stump, and despite the flurry of boundaries, New Zealand didn't push the fielders back. There were a couple of ungainly slashes over the off side, if the bowlers dropped it short.
New Zealand had their chances though, that too off consecutive balls. Powell, who was a mute spectator during Gayle's initial onslaught, decided to slash one off Neil Wagner, but the edge flew past Martin Guptill at second slip. Guptill didn't have time to react, but Daniel Flynn did, the following ball. Gayle stabbed at a delivery from Doug Bracewell and Flynn didn't time his jump well at point and gave Gayle a life on 36. Gayle rubbed it in by swatting, slicing and driving Wagner for three fours to race towards his fifty.
Wagner had a few things to say to Gayle, but it had no impact. The left-armer was taken out of the attack after conceding 35 off five overs, and New Zealand had to turn to the part-time spin of Kane Williamson. The best the tourists could do was put a lid on the scoring, which the spinners managed. Daniel Vettori and Williamson bowled flatter, defensive lines and the batsmen were happy defending.
Vettori did create an opportunity when a flashy drive by Gayle found the inside edge and beat the wicketkeeper. Powell, who played second fiddle to Gayle, produced some pleasing shots himself, including the pull, the flick and two effortless straight-driven boundaries off Wagner. He reached his third Test fifty with a swept boundary off Vettori, by which time the opening stand had swelled to 127. At 138, West Indies had surpassed their highest opening stand since Gayle began his exile in December 2010. In that period, till the start of this Test, they had managed only two century stands.
Towards the end of the day the pair focused on occupying the crease until stumps. The run-rate in the final session had dipped to just over two runs an over, but West Indies could afford to slow down. Powell showed good concentration and maturity in leaving deliveries outside the off stump. Wagner managed prodigious reverse swing late in the day, but the pair managed to bat to safety and not give New Zealand an inch.
In the morning session, the focus seemed more on survival, rather than aggression as New Zealand made slow progress, adding only 55 runs. Narine posed questions with the old ball and the seamers spiced up the action with the new ball, making run-scoring difficult. After getting rid of the nightwatchman Wagner early, Narine continued to bowl with the older ball, hoping to exploit the rough. Williamson and Dean Brownlie went on the defensive, and at one stage New Zealand had scored only 10 runs in as many overs.
Darren Sammy gave Narine a break and opted for the second new ball after 106 overs. Kemar Roach signalled his intentions by banging it in short and Williamson did well on one occasion to keep it down with his glove. In his following over, Roach varied his length by pitching it up and Williamson, failing to move his feet, only managed an inside edge on to the stumps. Roach peppered Kruger van Wyk with the short stuff, and it looked like another wicket was around the corner. Brownlie couldn't carry on after making a start, edging Ravi Rampaul to the wicketkeeper.
West Indies wrapped up the innings in just under 12 overs after lunch, after Vettori and Bracewell helped themselves to cameos. Narine went for a few, but picked up his fifth wicket off a bat-pad catch to get rid of van Wyk.
At that stage, it looked as if 351 would still be enough to test West Indies. But Gayle and Powell didn't leave the visitors feeling too chuffed with their own batting performance.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo