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Test matches (3): New Zealand 2, West Indies 0
One-day internationals (5): New Zealand 4, West Indies 1
Twenty20 international (1): New Zealand 1, West Indies 0
If the West Indians needed a poignant souvenir of their disappointing tour of New Zealand, which brought a solitary win in the one-day series and two defeats and a damp draw in the Tests, it came on the second morning of the final Test at Napier. The Herald on Sunday carried one of those eyecatching front-page pointers to a big story inside the paper. It read: "Brian Lara in Double Figures."
In the first two Tests, which New Zealand won, Lara had scored 5, 0, 1 and 1, but on that second day at Napier he moved from 28 to 83 on a difficult pitch which offered slow and erratic bounce, and every now and then he ripped away a boundary with a stroke that bore his imperial trademark. On a cold, bleak day perhaps only 1,000 locals huddled together in the grandstand. It was strictly in tune with the erratic nature of so much of the West Indians' cricket on the tour that Lara should have a wipe at a shortish ball from Nathan Astle which stayed down, took the bottom edge, shot downwards on to the toe of Lara's boot and rebounded into the stumps. The chilled folk of Napier rose and clapped Test cricket's leading scorer off the field.
Lara had missed the five one-dayers at the start of the tour, and the madcap Twenty20 opening, which required a bowl-out when the scores were tied. None of the four West Indian bowlers tried could hit the stumps - the first indication that their cricket would later range from the almost gorgeous to the outright gor'blimey.
By the time Lara arrived, West Indies were four down in the one-dayers, captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul was struggling with his own form - his highest score in 11 innings on tour was 41 - as well as tactics, and New Zealanders were already scoffing at the tourists' frailties. Lara held a press conference in which he chided the local media for not giving the West Indians due credit as a side of international quality and tradition, implying that New Zealand had more modest credentials. This only encouraged the scoffers. West Indies did manage a solid win in the final one-dayer, but once New Zealand edged ahead in the First Test the balance swung firmly against the tourists again, and their terrible overseas form continued. When they did manage a breakthrough, they could not exploit it, and they could not fight hard enough to stave off defeat either.
Their champion, Lara, simply looked as if he had been away too long from tight, competitive cricket and, on a modern tour, there is not enough time for players to rediscover form. Before the Second Test at Wellington, he was facing some throwdowns in front of the members' stand. His confidence was low and his timing was awry; every time he tried to drive, the ball would squirt off a thick edge. He shrugged his shoulders and looked aloft for an answer - but it didn't come.
The First Test at Auckland was tight, with both sides holding the initiative at times. In the end, chasing 291, West Indies' openers took them halfway there - and then Shane Bond engineered a fatal collapse. West Indies' patchy batting form cost them the Second Test as well, and the tour ended in anticlimax when the last three days at Napier were washed away.
The openers Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga were the best of the touring batsmen on paper, although Ganga's concentration often let him down after he had made a start. Runako Morton was the pick of the newcomers, with a century in the fourth one-dayer (West Indies' only hundred of the tour) and 140 for twice out in the last two Tests. Much was expected of Ramnaresh Sarwan but, after 177 runs in the one-dayers and a 62 in the First Test, a leg injury put him out of the tour. Denesh Ramdin, a tidy keeper and solid batsman, looked a good investment for the future.
There was more encouragement in the development of Ian Bradshaw, the fast-medium left-armer who played in every match, took nine one-day wickets and seven in the Tests, and occasionally made the ball swing sharply and late - but Bradshaw was already 31. Fidel Edwards was the quickest of the bowlers, but the sluggish New Zealand pitches did not help him. They did suit Gayle, whose apparently bland off-spin bluffed a number of batsmen. New Zealand did themselves little good by experimenting with Hamish Marshall alongside the newcomer Jamie How at the top of the order. Marshall made 11, 1, 3 and 23 not out (in the ten-wicket win at Wellington). The best news for New Zealand, however, was the continued good form of Nathan Astle: he made 295 runs at 73.75 in the one-dayers, and 129 at 43 in the Tests. Bond was not as fast nor as strong as before his back operation, but he was still sharp, and much cannier in the arts of swing and change of pace.
Astle's stingy medium-pace and pinpoint accuracy were good enough to bother West Indies, but James Franklin, the brisk left-armer, had a Jekylland- Hyde series, being hit for easy fours at one stage, then taking wickets - seven at Wellington when Bond was absent - with clever movement into the right-handers. All in all it was an unsatisfactory tour, featuring a West Indian team that did not seem to know how to win, and a New Zealand one flattered by the scoreline.
Match reports for
Only T20I: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Feb 16, 2006
1st ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Wellington, Feb 18, 2006
2nd ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Queenstown, Feb 22, 2006
3rd ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Christchurch, Feb 25, 2006
4th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Napier, Mar 1, 2006
5th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Mar 4, 2006
1st Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Mar 9-13, 2006
2nd Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Wellington, Mar 17-20, 2006
3rd Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Napier, Mar 25-29, 2006