Gayle 'takes all the pressure off' - Powell
The opener Kieran Powell has said he needed to divorce himself from Chris Gayle's brisk scoring to ensure he did not throw his own wicket away on the second day in Antigua. West Indies will now set their sights on batting into day four after making such a strong start to the first innings against New Zealand, with the total having reached 145 for 0 at stumps on the second day.
It was already the highest opening stand in a Test by a West Indies pair since Gayle and Daren Ganga added 162 in Multan in November 2006. The performance highlighted the importance to the West Indies side of Gayle, who was playing his first Test in more than 18 months, and he moved along to 85 from 124 deliveries while Powell shuffled along at his own pace to 58 from 164.
"It's a big relief because it takes all the pressure off your scoring," Powell said of having Gayle at the top of the order. "The shots you see him play, you just have to put yourself in your own bubble and get away from that or you try and do things and get out. It wasn't difficult, I just got myself in my own little bubble and just tried to steady. It didn't matter what I saw at the other end from Chris. I just tried to stick within my limitations."
The West Indies openers had already undone much of the good work New Zealand had put together over the first day, although he deficit remained 206 runs at stumps. But with the world's No. 4-ranked batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, still to come, along with men like Marlon Samuels and Narsingh Deonarine, finding a way through to the West Indies tail looms as a tough challenge for New Zealand.
"It's always important to get a good start when you've got guys like that in your team," Powell said of Chanderpaul and the middle order. "They know they can come in and play under no pressure and express themselves a bit earlier in their innings as well. We've got a good start early, so if we can bat the whole of tomorrow and a piece of day four we should be in a good position to bat once and have New Zealand out twice."
The New Zealanders felt they were on top after the first day, when they closed at 232 for 4, but Sunil Narine's first five-wicket haul in a Test match meant they were dismissed for 351 soon after lunch on the second afternoon. Daniel Vettori said that although New Zealand's bowlers hadn't started as they would have hoped when Gayle and Powell walked to the crease, they believed the pressure was building by the end of the day.
"It wasn't the way we wanted to start but I thought by the end of the day we were actually bowling pretty well and starting to create some pressure and maybe if the session had gone a little bit longer we could have taken some wickets," Vettori said. "You can't give those freebies away to Gayle because he's like a Sehwag, he'll just really hurt you.
I think we were going at sixes and sevens pretty early on and it puts you on the back foot and you have to bowl to defensive fields and you probably don't bowl as well as you'd like. That was pretty disappointing after what was a reasonably good batting performance.
"We created some pressure at my end, I thought Kane [Williamson] bowled really well and then Neil Wagner at the end, being able to get it to reverse and starting to ask some questions. That's going to be a handy asset for us tomorrow. I think the goal is to keep West Indies around a par score, because that wicket is going to get tougher and tougher to play on."
Wagner finished his first day of Test bowling with 0 for 35 from eight overs and although he leaked eight boundaries, Vettori said that was not a reflection on how he had bowled.
"He can actually bowl reverse and he does it really well. He runs in hard and asks a lot of questions," Vettori said. "On these sorts of wickets he's going to be tough going and we've got to make sure we create that sort of pressure so we can attack.
"We need to make sure they come away about par and that's by getting early wickets tomorrow, particularly Gayle's wicket and probably Chanderpaul's as well, because he has the ability to bat for a long time. If we can do that, who knows, we can create some pressure and the chance to win the game."