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On three previous tours of the Caribbean, New Zealand had won none of their 11 Tests (though they had managed a creditable eight draws) and only two of ten one-day internationals. According to Stephen Fleming, the images New Zealanders had of West Indian cricket were of "guys being hit on the helmet, broken bones, and fire and brimstone".
The reality turned out quite different on this brief two-Test tour, but the odds had already shifted. At home in 1999-2000, New Zealand had soundly beaten West Indies in both Tests and all five one-dayers. They entered this series ranked third in the ICC Test Championship; West Indies were sixth.
Although they had defeated India 2-1 in the preceding Test series, and beat New Zealand 3-1 in their one-day games, West Indies' captain, Carl Hooper, publicly asserted, on the eve of the First Test, that his players were fatigued after successive series in Sri Lanka, Sharjah and against India. It was hardly a rallying call. New Zealand won the Bridgetown Test in four days; then, at Test cricket's newest venue in Grenada, they overcame a few alarms on an easy-paced pitch to earn the draw and a historic series victory.
Under Fleming's astute direction, the New Zealanders disregarded the one-day setback to turn their attention to the subsequent Tests, while the West Indians, judging by their approach in the first innings of the series, made no adjustment to the change in codes. Out to a spate of ill-judged shots, they were dismissed for 107 in 42.1 overs, conceding a lead of 230, from which there was no way back. Beaten by the convincing margin of 204 runs on the ground where they had lost only three of 38 previous Tests, West Indies had one chance, at Grenada, to get back on even terms. They enjoyed the better of the match, but their determined opponents held on.
It was New Zealand, not West Indies, who possessed the fire and brimstone this time. Shane Bond, recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out against England, was consistently clocked at over 90mph, and two five-wicket returns in the Tests earned him the Man of the Series award. Ian Butler, aged 20 and in his first international season, gave him aggressive support. No helmets were hit or bones broken, but stumps and pads were.
In the absence of two stalwarts - Chris Cairns, their class all-rounder, through his usual knee injury, and the wicket-keeper Adam Parore, just retired after 78 Tests - New Zealand instantly discovered two worthy replacements. Scott Styris had an outstanding all-round tour. His one-day form earned him promotion to the Test squad, and he celebrated his debut at Grenada with scores of 107 and 69 not out which were essential in protecting New Zealand's series lead. The new wicket-keeper, Robbie Hart, proved his temperament with resolute and timely innings in both Tests.
West Indies' wear and tear was reflected in the back strain that struck down their main bowler, Merv Dillon, in the First Test, and the decline of Cameron Cuffy. Pedro Collins, the left-arm swing bowler, capably filled the breach, but the bowling lacked the penetration to capitalise on strong positions.
Chris Gayle dominated the one-day series with his punishing left-handed batting and tight off-spin bowling, and maintained his form in the Tests. His second-innings 73 could not save the First Test, but his rousing 204 gave West Indies a chance of victory in the Second. For New Zealand, Mark Richardson, a left-handed opener in a different mould, had a consistent series, and Fleming scored an important hundred at Bridgetown, but the batting on both sides was generally disappointing. Hooper averaged only 13, and was widely criticised for his persistence in inserting the opposition, even on the lifeless pitch at Grenada.
Planned as an appendage to the Indian tour, and staged later than any previous Tests in the West Indies, the series had to compete with the televised counter-attraction of the football World Cup. While there were the usual good attendances at the one-day internationals, especially at St Lucia's new stadium and in St Vincent, there were fewer than 3,000 spectators each day at Bridgetown, and even Grenada's inaugural Test failed to bring out the locals in their expected numbers.
Match reports for
University of West Indies Vice Chancellor's XI v New Zealanders at Kingston, Jun 3, 2002