West Indies v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Barbados, 1st day June 26, 2014

Neesham, Benn star on see-saw day


New Zealand 293 (Neesham 78, Craig 46*, Benn 5-93) v West Indies 32 for 0 (Gayle 18*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jimmy Neesham occupies the No.6 position for New Zealand. Judging from the evidence in Barbados, he has the potential to bat much higher. The composure he showed while the rest of the middle-order was prised out was remarkable and more importantly much needed to push New Zealand to 293. Hometown boy Sulieman Benn coaxed a dry pitch to lend him turn and bounce in exchange for his steadfast accuracy, but his 5 for 93 lost a little of its shine as the day wound down. Mark Craig proved a thorn again, contributing an unbeaten 46 to remedy a situation that had been 194 for 7.

Chris Gayle and Kraigg Brathwaite survived nine overs till time but West Indies will be wary of being a batsman short. They had opted for a five-man attack, handing a debut to Jason Holder, and would be pleased with their openers' positive display.

West Indies ended a trend of five losses in six games across 2013-14 in Port-of-Spain and their new-look side could do with a series win. Benn epitomised that desperation and accounted for a set Kane Williamson, an aggressive Brendon McCullum, BJ Watling, whose doggedness is not to be underestimated, and Tim Southee, whose penchant for six-hitting could have hurt West Indies.

Benn forced the batsman to play more often than not, a ploy that usually provides dividends when the deck offers a little grip. His high-arm action and strong pivot of the hip helped the ball grip onto the pitch. He troubled both Williamson and Ross Taylor despite their comfort against the rest of the attack during a smart 74-run partnership for the third wicket. Benn bowled unchanged from lunch until the last over before tea and also contributed in the field with a stunning grab, diving to his right at gully to cut a fluent Taylor short.

Yet for all the threat Benn posed, the other end could not keep up. Neesham was aware of that. His resolve indicated he may have also known New Zealand haven't won a series against a top-eight nation away from home in a decade.

He targeted the seamers - a wayward Jerome Taylor was whipped for 21 off 13 balls. His comfort was no less against spin. Before lunch, he had worked on camping on his back foot unless the bowler was too generous with his flight. However, as his confidence grew he eased down the track to unsettle the status quo. There was turn and bounce available as early as an hour and a half into the Test. But Neesham's intent matched his execution, as 10 fours and a six would suggest.

Neesham's crispness ensured the run-rate hovered around the four-per-over mark and orchestrated a slump in West Indies' body language. They weren't helped by a recalled Shane Shillingford looking off his best. The offspinner struggled to elicit the same kind of help as Benn and was often guilty of bowling too short or too full. West Indies had conceded 122 runs between lunch and tea, but ripped out most of the middle order. The hosts should have been buoyant, when play resumed but sloppy fielding crept into their play. They waited for the tail to roll over and Craig and Neesham exploited that dip in intensity. The duo cultivated 64 runs from 17.2 overs to force some respect to New Zealand's total.

There seems to be a jinx on the opening partnership for New Zealand. Three different combinations have been attempted in the past 15 months, discounting Brendon McCullum's forced promotion in Port-of-Spain, and only once has the 100-run mark been crossed. A revival was not on the cards as Kemar Roach hit an excellent length. Hamish Rutherford chipped to mid-on and Tom Latham was worked over intelligently - a few balls darting across him and then a full, fast one swerved into his back pad plumb in front of middle. Roach finished with 4 for 61.

Taylor and Williamson were cautious early on, but they were not indifferent towards scoring opportunities. Sixteen fours were hit in the morning session, with the above two scoring 13 of them. Jerome Taylor was the leak - he floated a half-volley that was caressed to the boundary by Latham to kick the match off and conceded eight further fours and a six. The discipline that has him at the top of the wicket-taker's chart for the series was absent as he flitted between short and wide, and full and on the pads. It was this kind of inconsistency that helped New Zealand reach so close to 300 and West Indies would want to offset that with the bat tomorrow.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Len on June 27, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    Even though Benn took a 5for, he still conceded too many runs, a test class spinner should be aiming to take those wickets for 60 odd runs in those 26 overs. Shillingford should not be in the team period, and there should be 4 fast bowlers because the simple truth we just do not have any good spinners. As a WIndian fan, my money is still on the NZealanders!

  • ESPN on June 27, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    It isn't balanced, West Indies are ahead and I expect them to win from here

  • ESPN on June 27, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    Not a bad day for either teams although West Indies may just be on top I think there is plenty in it for the NZ seamers and some turn for Craig so If NZ can bowl the Windies out for under 300 we have an exciting test on our hands. UP THE BLACK CAPS COME ON BOYS!!!

  • Anver on June 27, 2014, 8:34 GMT

    Well bowled Benn !!!! he claims another 5 wkt haul for WI.... I believe Sunil Narine's absent is not felt here at all, both WI spinners are doing well in this series !!!!!!! Neesham continues his good form with bat, but struggles & not among the wkts for NZ !!!!

  • VENKATACHALAM on June 27, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    The way Gayle has started out against Boult and Craig, looks ominous for New Zealand. Gayle has identified since the second innings at Trinidad that batting in T20 mode, will be best suited to tackle this talented Kiwi attack and NZ bowlers have to react quickly first thing in the morning. Otherwise 293 which is a pretty respectable effort on this surface, will be wiped out very quickly. Maybe, T20 type of bowling ie yorkers, slower bouncers will not be bad against Gayle. Kane Williamson too can come in handy against the lefties.

  • Ali on June 27, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    @ Joachim Robinson ,,,,

    you must be mistaken .. Shillingford has earned nothing ... Shillingford is the 4-5th best spinner in the Caribbean ... he has been UNFAIRLY given as chance !

    He has done WELL ...yes...

    but that is NO excuse when there are BETTER people who can do BETTER than Shillingford on the sidelines ....

    Shillingford has bolwed with Benn and Doenarine ... and BOTH of them have showed Shillingford up to be mediocre !

    Shillingford can only be the Best spinner IF he is the ONLY spinner ! ! !

    Where Shilly can get 10 Wickets in a match for 180 runs .... Narine , Doenarine and Benn can get 10 wickets for 90 runs ....

    Look at ALL head to heads .. Shilly has never been the better of 2 spinners if 2 spinners are played .... not even ONCE .......

    Shilly can only look good when he is the one spinner and granted 50% of the overs in the innings .....

  • Android on June 27, 2014, 6:20 GMT

    Neesham is turning out to be a seripus test batsman .Wow !! I dont think this WI bowling attack is by any means low in quality as you have Rpach Taylor Shillingford and Benn who has really impressed me .He has been taking wickets this series and this is going to be a nail biter .293 is an ok score .WI batsmen will have to work hard to get a sufficient lead and more so because they have a long tail .This is a test between two evenly matched teams and will be a joy to watch next few days.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    Shillingford earned his place on the west indies 11 even after he was released from suspension. He gained a handful of wickets with about a 5 wicket halls in almost every match he played on his returned to first class cricket. I am satisfied with this 11. We must realize that our batsmen need to step up and score some big 100's. Clearly in the last test match all our specialist batsmen scored half centuries or more showcasing exquisite form that would have doubt the fact that they lost the first test match. We don't need Jermaine Blackwood in this match to save us from dominating. After all we finally have a wicketkeeper who can score some hundreds. Took us more than a decade to get that shooting star. In this match what we needed was that extra pitcher that could also stand his ground as a very handy lower order batsmen. An alrounder you could even consider a front line bowler. This creates equilibrium within the West Indies Line up. Good Luck boys.

  • jared on June 27, 2014, 4:00 GMT

    a while back, before neesham had played a test, i called for his inclusion, not for his batting but i thought he might make a good 3rd seamer, wagner wasn't doing very well back then and i thought neesham might be worth a shot but his bowling has been largely ineffective but his batting is absolutely brilliant, i knew he could bat but i didn't think he would be this good, he looks as good as any of the other batters, infact he looks better than most of them, he never looks hurried and is very technically correct, he should be batting at the top of the order, in my eyes he's gone from potential 3rd seamer to the guy who should be opening with latham, i hope he doesn't give up on the bowling though, he's young and if he works hard with shane bond i still think he has the potential to be that 3rd seamer one day, he has pace, an inswinger, variations just needs a bit more control, neesham is the most exciting talent in the country, think its safe to say he's exceeded all expectations.

  • Bronson on June 27, 2014, 2:18 GMT

    Neesham's run-out was soo unnecessary (Like all run-outs i guess). He hit the ball, Looked in the direction the ball was heading and despite it heading straight to the fielder he still casully strode to the non strikers end thinking there was an easy single. Only when it was too late that he tried to hurry for the single. Kid couldve got himself another century. Anyway no love lost. I can see a bit of Steve Smith in Neesh in that he should probably become more of a batsmen and shift himself up the order and give Anderson the allround tag. Morning will be key for us. Get 2-3 wickets(especially Gayle) early and we could be looking at a nice lead.

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