New Zealand refuse to break
"Every man has his breaking point," said Red of Andy Dufresne just before his escape from prison in Shawshank Redemption. By the end of the third day of the first Test against West Indies, New Zealand were a long way from an escape, and their team spirit and morale had been tested sternly on the field.
New Zealand began this series as the higher ranked of the two teams. They were not favourites, though. Not with Sunil Narine playing in conditions suited to him. Not with Chris Gayle returning to Test cricket. But New Zealand have earned a reputation of not being intimidated.
New Zealand don't have superstars. They have efficient Test players who perform specific roles that add up to pose a challenge to the opposition. When the balance is so delicate, and each contribution vital, everything, no matter how little, makes a difference. A dropped catch here, a misfield there, is more likely to influence New Zealand's fate in a Test than that of their opponents.
Gayle was dropped on 36 by Daniel Flynn at point off Doug Bracewell. He went on to score 150 in an opening partnership of 254, which wiped out most of New Zealand's first-innings 351. Gayle had been dropped on 142 as well, a much simpler chance to Ross Taylor, New Zealand's captain. Martin Guptill, arguably the best fielder in the side, watched a chance off Kieran Powell elude his hand. After the two centurions were finally dismissed, Daniel Vettori missed a run-out of Assad Fudadin and conceded four overthrows. Fudadin was on 16, he went on to make 55. Several mistimed shots and leading edges fell safe of fielders.
New Zealand, however, were buzzing throughout, even during an extended third session after they had been blunted for most of the day. Lots of things had gone wrong for them but the effort and enthusiasm they put into offering encouragement and their ground fielding could not be faulted. Fielders continued to chase down singles when they could have ambled and retrieved the ball; they sprinted after certain boundaries; the catcher standing at silly point sucked up repeated blows and continued to crouch for the next ball; and weary bodies were flung to try and slow down West Indies' progress.
A weaker team would have haemorrhaged uncontrollably, but not feisty New Zealand. They scrapped hard for six West Indies wickets and, as Chris Martin said, they "stuck together pretty well and Ross [Taylor] would be reasonably happy with how the day ended."
New Zealand are 91 runs behind and have four West Indian wickets to take before they begin to bat to save the Test. Shawshank State Prison did not break Andy Dufrense; the hard toil in Antigua hasn't broken New Zealand yet.
Subash Jayaraman is a freelancer, blogger and podcaster based in Pennsylvania. He tweets here