Williamson ton builds strong platform
New Zealand 240 for 2 (Williamson 105*, Latham 83) v West Indies
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The first Test match after two high-profile Twenty20 tournaments - the World T20 and the IPL - got off to a slow start at Sabina Park, as New Zealand's run rate stayed below 2.65 an over throughout the day. The visitors, however, had the better time of it after Kane Williamson and Tom Latham adjusted to the pitch, whose strongest characteristic was its sluggishness, and put on a 165-run stand for the second wicket.
The spectators who came to the ground to see Chris Gayle bat in his 100th Test had to wait after West Indies' new Test captain, Denesh Ramdin, lost the toss. Instead, they were witness to the comebacks of four bowlers from layoffs of varying lengths, and the discipline of two young New Zealand batsmen, who played with a patience that is becoming increasingly rare in international cricket.
Jerome Taylor, whose last Test was in November 2009, opened the bowling with Kemar Roach, who had been out of action for more than a year. Neither bowler hit the speeds they used to before their injuries, but that was probably due to the pitch. Moving the ball away from both the right and left-hand openers, Taylor was more effective than Roach, but on the whole they could have made the batsmen play more than they did. Their lengths too were shorter than ideal on this surface, whose slowness made it easy to play on the back foot.
New Zealand were cautious in the opening exchanges, with their newest opening combination Peter Fulton and Latham barely playing a forceful shot. Fulton was beaten by a couple of deliveries from Taylor that seamed away from off stump, and when one did not move as much, his poor footwork resulted in an edge to the wicketkeeper. It was the ninth consecutive innings in which Fulton had failed to pass 15.
In the 10th over, Ramdin made a surprising bowling change. Darren Bravo had never bowled in any form of international cricket - he had bowled only 100 deliveries in first-class cricket - and yet here he was bowling medium-pace in a Test. His lengths were horrible and the experiment lasted only one over.
Benn, playing his first Test since December 2010, came on in the 12th over and immediately found turn and bounce to keep his two slips alert. New Zealand scored only 22 in the first hour.
Shortly after drinks Ramdin deployed spin from both ends, but it was Marlon Samuels that he turned to and not the other specialist Shane Shillingford. Samuels thought he had Latham lbw first ball and reviewed the umpire's not-out decision, only to find the ball had hit both the inside edge and then the pad outside off stump.
Benn bowled five maidens in his first six overs and had a bat-pad appeal upheld shortly before lunch, but Latham successfully challenged it. New Zealand went into the break on 62 for 1, scoring at just over 1.90 an over.
In the first over of the second session, Latham drove loosely at a full and wide Taylor delivery and edged to Samuels at gully. He was on 39, and his partnership with Williamson was worth 55, but both received a lease of life when replays showed Taylor's heel was not behind the crease.
In the next over - the 34th - Williamson cut Benn for four to take the run rate above two for the first time. It had taken Williamson 84 balls to hit his first boundary. He and Latham swept the spinners when they bowled fuller lengths, and when it was short they had enough time to go back and play square of the wicket. Every now and then, though, the odd delivery spun sharply past the outside edge.
Benn bowled 19 consecutive overs either side of lunch, far more than any other bowler. When he had finished his 16th, Shillingford was coming on to bowl only his fourth. Shillingford ripped an offbreak from leg and middle past Latham's defensive prod but the batsman got to his maiden half-century a couple of balls later, off his 126th delivery.
Until the 54th over, not a single ball had been hit in the air, and then Williamson cut Roach over gully. He got to his half-century in the same over, by edging a drive through the same region. By tea time Williamson and Latham were using their feet, and the depth of their crease, with ease. They had scored 102 runs in the second session.
The old ball began to do things after tea. Taylor reversed it a bit, but Shillingford got it to spin big. Latham, on 83, closed the face too early to an offbreak and the ball lobbed back to the bowler off the leading edge.
It could have been tricky for the new batsman but the hard toil told on the West Indies bowlers, whose lines and lengths were shoddy. Williamson moved into the 90s by cutting a short and wide one from Roach for four, but then stopped scoring for 33 balls. During that time, Taylor kept New Zealand going, and when West Indies took the second new ball in the 85th over, he cut three wide ones from Roach for boundaries.
Just when it seemed Williamson might go into stumps a few short of a century, he snapped out of his scoreless trance and late-cut successive deliveries from Benn to bring up his sixth Test hundred.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo