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Both teams were looking for credibility rather than earth-shattering performances when New Zealand made their third tour of the Caribbean - which featured five one-day internationals and only two Tests. West Indies' previous home series ended in their historic defeat by Australia. Since then, they had under-performed generally and lost traumatically to Kenya in the World Cup; captain Richie Richardson had resigned, and the management team of Wes Hall and Andy Roberts been replaced; and Brian Lara was too often in the headlines for the wrong reasons. More disasters at home were unthinkable.
Fortunately for West Indies, the New Zealanders were in modest form - no Hadlee, no Crowe and the whole mechanism of the team dismantled ten months beforehand, when an old coach, Glenn Turner, and a new captain, Lee Germon, were charged with returning the motor. They had recovered somewhat from their disastrous centenary season in 1994-95, however, and had just fought a boisterous World Cup campaign.
After the tour, both sides would have counted more pluses than minuses. West Indies seemed more solid, with Clive Lloyd in command off the field and Courtney Walsh on it. The search to replace the golden Greenidge-Haynes opening combination made encouraging progress when Sherwin Campbell scored a cultured double-century in the First Test, and Robert Samuels a powerful maiden Test hundred in the Second. Meanwhile, Jimmy Adams rediscovered his magical touch, batting solidly throughout and scoring a flowing double-hundred in Antigua.
There may be problems ahead: Curtly Ambrose and Walsh are a year closer to the resting paddock, and Peterson Thompson will take time to add accuracy and control to his raw speed. But West Indies strengthened their team, showed they could win with modest input from Lara, had satisfactory gates and signed another six-year sponsorship deal with Cable & Wireless.
New Zealand were also reasonably contented. They had brought Turner-inspired vitality to their one-day game; West Indies got home 3-2, but the series was so closely fought that no one would have complained had it gone the other way. Yet, as so often on tour, they played badly in the First Test, losing in four days by ten wickets. A lively, boundary-studded second-innings century from Nathan Astle provided their only warm memory. They started just as badly in the Second Test, putting West Indies in and watching them score 548 for seven. But another, more sober Astle century led New Zealand past the follow-on and a late burst by Danny Morrison even had West Indies looking anxious. New Zealand did not have the bowling resources to force the win, but nor did West Indies look like dismissing New Zealand again on a flat pitch.
Though New Zealand seemed to have made some progress on the batting front, the bowling was less satisfactory. Dion Nash was never properly fit, Shane Thomson's off-spin was hampered by a damaged shoulder, and Chris Cairns's precarious international status suffered another setback when damaged ribs ended his tour prematurely. He departed for Nottinghamshire, which ended his unhappy relationship with Turner. As Cairns left under a cloud and the team returned with its reputation enhanced, it appeared that Turner was ahead in the popularity stakes. But the ambush awaited at home and he was sacked as coach in July.
L. K. Germon (Canterbury) (captain), N. J. Astle (Canterbury), C. L. Cairns (Canterbury), S. P. Fleming (Canterbury), C. Z. Harris (Canterbury), R. J. Kennedy (Otago), G. R. Larsen (Wellington), D. K. Morrison (Auckland), D. J. Nash (Northern Districts), A. C. Parore (Northern Districts), D. N. Patel (Auckland), C. M. Spearman (Auckland), S. A. Thomson (Northern Districts), R. G. Twose (Wellington).
M. D. Bailey (Northern Districts), M. J. Haslam (Auckland) and J. T. C. Vaughan (Auckland) joined the party as replacement for the injured Cairns, Nash and Thomson.
Manager: G. D. Alabaster. Coach: G. M. Turner.
Test matches - Played 2: Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 4: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 1.
Win - West Indies Board XI.
Losses - West Indies, President's XI.
Draw - West Indies.
One-day internationals - Played 5: Won 2, Lost 3.
Other non-first-class match - Won v University of West Indies Vice-Chancellor's XI.
Match reports for