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New Zealand's second tour of West Indies, condensed into seven weeks with four Tests, three three-day first-class matches and five one-day internationals, was a struggle from start to finish. The assessment of their own captain, Geoff Howarth, was that his team were two years past their peak; and the absence of their most reliable batsman of recent series, the left-handed John Reid, who declined to tour because of teaching commitments, was a telling setback. They confronted a strong, confident West Indies team, to whom the main threat was the amount of cricket they had played internationally in the previous eighteen months.
In the circumstances, the New Zealanders were outclassed. They managed to draw the first two Tests, the first with the help of the weather, before losing the third and fourth by wide margins. They also lost all five one-day internationals, in which they showed little interest, and were under pressure to draw the three matches against combined teams. As was the case on their previous tour in 1972, they did not win a single match, but on that occasion they lost none either.
Their batsmen foundered against the West Indian fast bowlers, of whom Malcolm Marshall, with 27 wickets at 18 apiece, was the fastest, most aggressive and most feared. Only New Zealand's tall, upright vice-captain, Jeremy Coney, batted with any consistency, and he, ironically, had his left forearm fractured in the final Test during a particularly torrid spell from Marshall and Joel Garner which brought justified complaints from the New Zealand manager and captain about intimidatory bowling.
The Crowe brothers, Martin and Jeff, were always positive in their attitude and were the only New Zealand century-makers of the series; Martin in the second Test, Jeff in the fourth. Yet in six other innings in the series Martin managed only 28 runs and Jeff only one other score above 50. The disappointing form of the experienced John Wright and Howarth himself, and the failure of the nineteen-year-old opening batsman, Ken Rutherford, exposed the middle order to constant pressure.
Richard Hadlee confirmed his standing as a fast bowler of genuine class, but, unlike Marshall, he lacked support of similar quality. Ewen Chatfield did his job honestly and as well as his limitations would allow, but neither the left-arm Gary Troup nor the lively but erratic Derek Stirling matched expectations. When Hadlee was resting, New Zealand had little alternative but to bowl defensively.
It was the first series for the West Indians since the retirement of their long-serving captain, Clive Lloyd, following their tour of Australia. Vivian Richards was appointed to replace him, but the time was too brief and the play too one-sided to determine whether he would have a different style of leadership. Certainly, the new responsibility had no adverse effect on Richards's batting. The opposite was probably the case, as he scored consistently with important innings in the first and third Tests. Except for the second Test, when they made full use of the perfect batting conditions of the Bourda ground, West Indies scored steadily rather than spectacularly, but at no time was their superiority threatened.
It was the first time the two teams had met since the troubled short series in New Zealand five years earlier, but any fears that there might have been disagreeable repercussions proved groundless. The New Zealanders were popular tourists and the matches were played in an excellent spirit.
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