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The Report by Alagappan Muthu
June 28, 2014
New Zealand 293 and 123 for 3 (Williamson 58*, McCullum 23*) lead West Indies 317 (Brathwaite 68, Edwards 58, Wagner 4-64) by 99 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand clawed back into the series decider on a dry, slow Kensington Oval pitch through their two left-arm quicks as West Indies surrendered another promising position - they had begun the day 169 for 2 and succumbed to 317 all out by tea. The visitors managed a lead of 99 but not before Kemar Roach and Jason Holder ripped out three wickets to keep West Indies in the hunt.
Much of New Zealand's position was down to Neil Wagner. He toiled with the old ball and epitomised an improved approach. They had been fickle with their tactics on the second day, but today they had well-devised plans and were patient enough to see them through to completion. Trent Boult had a quiet morning session but regained his mojo with the new ball. He snared two wickets in two overs, including the last recognised batsman Denesh Ramdin for a plucky 45.
West Indies' tail did wag, but not quite enough. Holder, playing his first innings in Tests, marshalled a 36-run partnership for the eighth wicket and hinted at abilities beyond his first-class average of 15.40 through some delectable drives. He was excellent with the ball too, snapping up Ross Taylor as his maiden Test wicket. His height enabled him to extract a touch more bounce which helped spice up proceedings towards the end of the day's play. He gave Brendon McCullum some grief, narrowly missing out a leg-before decision. Hawk-Eye pegged the impact outside off, but there was doubt over whether the New Zealand captain was playing a shot.
Roach had been the other source of threat after he settled into a probing length quite readily. He drew Tom Latham into an ill-advised pull and elicited Hamish Rutherford's outside edge. Barring a few overs from Shane Shillingford, the rest of the attack was ordinary again.
McCullum took 18 balls to get off the mark but he and half-centurion Kane Williamson - who had an outside edge bisect wicketkeeper and slip and escaped a tough stumping opportunity - managed to take New Zealand to stumps without further damage.
Inventive fields and consistency from their bowlers made for an absorbing morning session. The abrasive pitch sapped most of the pace off the ball and the search for wickets led McCullum to play hot potato with his close-in fielders. It started with twin gullies for Darren Bravo, then twin short covers, and as the batsman continued to drive on the up, a third short cover.
Bravo took on the challenge. Two fours were conceded before Wagner duped him with a slower ball that drew him a little too far outside the off stump. Williamson at gully completed a good catch and the visitors celebrated an astute plan coming off. The short ball was used as a surprise weapon as the dogged Shivnarine Chanderpaul found out on the cusp of lunch. Fitting reward for Wagner's wholehearted efforts.
There was brief resistance from Ramdin, who had flourished against the spin of Mark Craig. Two long hops were dispatched square on either side of the pitch and a lashing cover drive also featured among his best shots. As quick as he was with his footwork against the offspinner, he got into a woeful tangle against an inswinger and was out leg before. Boult added another wicket when he induced Roach's outside edge and BJ Watling took a smart, low grab.
It did help New Zealand that even set batsmen like Kirk Edwards had trouble regaining their stride. He had to contend with the bowlers targeting the stumps. His strokeplay was restrained and a simple defensive push skimmed across the turf to usher him to his half-century. However, pushing on from the mark has been a problem in recent times. The last three times he had reached this far, he could not get to 60. Tim Southee ensured the continuation of that trend by generating reverse swing in his second spell. The flick off the legs ended up as a leading edge that swirled in the air before Rutherford held a well-judged catch.
New Zealand's bowlers created opportunities and if they couldn't, they kept things tight. But their batsmen were put under severe pressure in the latter half of the final session. The pitch is entertaining some turn, the odd delivery was keeping low and others were leaping up. A second series win in the Caribbean is still a strong batting performance away for the visitors.
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