Wagner replaces Sodhi in series decider
June 26-30, 2014, Barbados
Start time 1000 (1400 GMT)
A six-Test winning streak and the World T20 title had signaled the possibility of a change in fortune for West Indies in 2012 and 2013. It was not to be. They lost four of the next five Tests; Darren Sammy lost the captaincy and retired from the format. The wholesale changes - a revamped bowling attack - did not produce immediate success in the first Test against New Zealand in Jamaica, but West Indies battled through five days to level the series in Trinidad. The third Test in Barbados brings with it the hope of a morale-boosting win for the hosts.
There's a lot at stake for New Zealand too. They have won only one series in the Caribbean, in 2002, and arrived for this tour with a reputation that has gained weight over the last two seasons. They added to it with a "nigh perfect" performance - in Brendon McCullum's words - at Sabina Park but faltered in Port-of-Spain, highlighting the difficulty of winning an away series. New Zealand will be raring to take the opportunity and need the captain McCullum, their only batsman without runs, to lift his game.
West Indies were heartened by the manner in which their batsmen responded after the problems in the first Test. They brought in two in-form players for the Trinidad Test - Kraigg Brathwaite and the uncapped Jermaine Blackwood - and reaped immediate rewards. Brathwaite scored his maiden Test hundred while Blackwood impressed with 63. The others chipped in too - Darren Bravo made his first Test century at home, Kirk Edwards' aggressive fifty was a statement of intent, and Chris Gayle smashed his way through to the target. With Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor, the bowling looks in good shape.
If the Bridgetown pitch promises to be as seamer-friendly as it is said to be, the contest may be decided by which team handles pace better. New Zealand, with more technically sound batsmen, would consider that to be a head start.
Form guide(Most recent first)
West Indies WLLLD
New Zealand LWDWW
Watch out for
Jerome Taylor's return to Test cricket has been positive. He is the leading bowler in the series with 10 wickets and has kept batsmen under constant pressure with his accuracy. Taylor has swung the ball, old and new, at pace, and on more fortunate days he would have had more wickets to show for it. He is eight short of 100 and will hope the Bridgetown curator prepares the ideal surface for him to reach the milestone.
Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor were the stars of New Zealand's home summer prior to this West Indies tour. Taylor's three centuries, including a career-best 217, set up a 2-0 win against West Indies, while McCullum 224 and 302 helped beat India 1-0. They have had no success in the Caribbean though. Despite getting some runs, Taylor has appeared scratchy. McCullum's form has been worse - 31 runs in four innings. Considering how long the offspinner Mark Craig batted in the second innings at Port-of-Spain, similar resolve from the New Zealand captain could have helped his team save the game.
West Indies are unlikely to tinker with the XI that squared the series irrespective of the availability of offspinner Shane Shillingford, who missed the last Test due to a niggle. Shannon Gabriel, who replaced Shillingford, was the least threatening of the three West Indian seamers, but he found life on a dying pitch towards the end of the Test. With Barbados likely to have the most pace-friendly conditions, and Shillingford blunted due to the ban on his doosra, Gabriel's case is stronger.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kraigg Brathwaite, 3 Kirk Edwards, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Denesh Ramdin (capt & wk), 8 Sulieman Benn, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Shane Shillingford/Shannon Gabriel
The difference between West Indies and New Zealand's XIs in Port-of-Spain was the make-up of their bowling attacks. New Zealand played two spinners to West Indies' one. The visitors have changed that for Barbados, bringing in left-armer Neil Wagner as the third seamer in place of the legspinner Ish Sodhi, whose four wickets were expensive in Trinidad. Mark Craig was wicketless in the second Test but his marathon batting effort in the second innings went in his favour.
New Zealand: 1 Tom Latham, 2 Hamish Rutherford, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt), 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Neil Wagner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Mark Craig, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
Rain is likely over the next five days, but if forecasts are to be believed the weather will not disrupt the Test too much. It is the pitch the teams will be keeping a careful eye on. "Kensington always has a little bit in it for the bowlers as well," Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, had said. New Zealand will not mind that either.
Stats and trivia
- This will be West Indies' 50th Test at Kensington Oval. They have won 22, lost 10 and drawn 17
- New Zealand registered their first Test win in the West Indies in 2002, at Kensington Oval
- New Zealand beat West Indies six times in 30 Tests till 2000, and six times in 14 games after the turn of the century
"It's beautiful, a great atmosphere. Good wicket to bat on at all times. Barbados is very passionate about the game. A fantastic ground, love playing here personally, you get quality for your shots."
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle
"The opposition is not going to allow you to play that sort of cricket (second Test) all the time but that's the cricket we want to play and that's what we will set out to do."
Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo