Patience key in New Zealand series - Samuels
Marlon Samuels has warned that the Tests between West Indies and New Zealand could be a series of attrition, with batsmen needing to graft for runs on pitches that are on the slower side and bowlers having to show patience on flat tracks.
"The pitches in the Caribbean are a bit on the slow side so it [will depend on] who can occupy the crease the longest and win more sessions," Samuels told CMC. "Patience will be the most important thing for this series for the batsmen and bowlers. [You will have to] bowl in good areas and be patient in every way that is possible to win, because it is going to be a tough series. These pitches get flat sometimes and they are still on the slow side so whosoever is more patient will come out on top."
The last time the two teams played a Test in the West Indies, Samuels scored 123 and 52 to help set up a five-wicket win for his side, ensuring a 2-0 series result. Since then, however, West Indies have only beaten Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Tests, losing Test series on tours of India and New Zealand.
While West Indies have prepared for the series with a camp in Barbados, that included practice games against local sides, New Zealand have prepared for the Tests with two matches against a Jamaica Select XI. In the second practice game, the New Zealanders dismissed Jamaica Select XI for 90 to complete a 123-run win. Offspinner Mark Craig, who is hoping for a Test debut on the tour, had figures of 4-0-8-4 in the second innings, while legspinner Ish Sodhi took 5 for 35 in the first.
Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, called the conditions of the second practice game "extreme" and would not commit to both Sodhi and Craig featuring in the starting XI for the first Test, in Kingston, from Sunday.
"Kingston doesn't have a lot of grass on it but it holds together and certainly has a lot more pace," Hesson told the Dominion Post. "We haven't seen the wicket and we have to decide whether we play a third seamer [Wagner] or a second spinner [Craig]. Whoever we leave out will be unlucky because they've both performed really well."
The composition of the top order is a concern for New Zealand. In the two practice games, the team had scores of 112, 210, 203 and 132, with only two batsmen scoring fifties. While Tom Latham and Peter Fulton had knocks in the 30s, Hamish Rutherford, who has been the side's regular opener over the last year, had a highest score of 19 in two games.
While Hesson said he had an idea who should open, he said captain Brendon McCullum's input would also be factored in. "We gave all of our openers chances at the top," Hesson said. "We've got a pretty fair idea, but I've got to have a chat with our captain about that."
The only New Zealand player who is likely to not be considered for selection is backup wicketkeeper and batsman Luke Ronchi. According to reports in the New Zealand media, Ronchi is suffering from a lung infection but will be remain on tour with the team.