First Test

New Zealand v West Indies, 2005-06

Don Cameron

At Auckland, March 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 2006. New Zealand won by 27 runs. Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: P. G. Fulton, J. M. How; I. D. R. Bradshaw.

This was a fascinating match marked by patchy batting, the honourable exception being Styris's unbeaten century on the first day. The advantage changed session by session, and the vital turning-point came on the fourth day, as Gayle and Ganga led West Indies' pursuit of 291. Their opening stand reached three figures when Gayle drove Vettori for a six so huge that the ball could not be found. Much time was spent finding a suitable replacement - Eden Park had not staged a first-class match for a year - and Chanderpaul only accepted the selected ball after it had been scraped and bounced on a concrete pathway.

He soon wished Gayle had restrained himself. Bond, restored as the sharp edge of the New Zealand attack, had not been able to move the previous ball, but he loved this one. West Indies, 160 for two at tea on the fourth day, found themselves 246 for eight. They tumbled to defeat on the final morning - 50 years to the day after New Zealand's first-ever Test victory, also against West Indies on this same ground. Although there was little spite in the drop-in pitch, New Zealand had tottered to 69 for four after being put in. Bradshaw took two wickets, and also ran out How, his fellow debutant. Astle went for his shots as usual, making a half-century from only 53 balls, but then the admirable Styris, defensive or aggressive as required, patiently accumulated his fifth Test century to shepherd the total to 275.

Styris caused further damage when he removed the night-watchman Bradshaw and Gayle in three balls, reducing West Indies to 51 for three by the close. Lara survived only briefly next morning before being caught by the young substitute Carl Cachopa, who was born and bred in South Africa. But the resistance did stiffen, and a breezy 38 from Smith ensured that West Indies were only 18 adrift when the innings ended in mid-afternoon.

Bradshaw again made inroads with the new ball, and when Astle was run out by a direct hit from Ganga in the gully it was 146 for seven - a lead of only 164 - and West Indies were clear favourites. But New Zealand bat a long way down: McCullum curbed his usual enthusiasm, and grafted to 74. Vettori, dropped by Ramdin when only four, helped him put on 64, then Bond hung around while 62 more were added; it didn't seem to matter much that Martin's contribution was his usual zero, to complete a fourth Test pair (equalling a record shared by B. S. Chandrasekhar, Mervyn Dillon, Courtney Walsh and - more improbably - Marvan Atapattu, who scored one run in his first six innings).

West Indies' target was 291, the highest of the match, and Gayle and Ganga worked solidly to 48 without loss on the third evening. Rain delayed the start until 1 p.m. next day, but when play did resume they attacked again, even after the ball was replaced, and it was not until the 50th over of the innings - well after Gayle's six off Vettori had clattered off into downtown Auckland - that the opening stand was broken. Gayle prodded at Astle, and Fleming held the catch at slip.

Although West Indies were over halfway home, they didn't make it. First Bond forced Sarwan to retire hurt after smacking him on the back of the helmet, then he hit Lara's leg stump first ball as he shuffled across. Vettori winkled out Chanderpaul, who scooped a drive to midwicket, then, at 211, Ganga's long vigil was ended at 95, after 310 minutes, when he sliced a drive into the gully. Bond, now making the replacement ball reverse-swing, broke the back of the remaining resistance, snaring Smith for a duck and Bravo, after more than an hour, for 17.

Just as Ramdin seemed to be settling in, he top-edged a reckless sweep at Vettori, in what turned out to be the last over of the fourth day. By the close West Indies needed a tantalising 45 more to win, but only had two wickets left. Bradshaw departed early next morning, and although the last pair hung around for seven overs it was Bond, fittingly, who wrapped things up when Taylor inside-edged on to his stumps.

Man of the Match: S. E. Bond. Attendance: 20,502.

© John Wisden & Co.