Series review

New Zealand v West Indies 2008-09

Tony Cozier

Test matches (2): New Zealand 0, West Indies 0
One-day internationals (5): New Zealand 2, West Indies 1
Twenty20 internationals (2): New Zealand 1, West Indies 1

The covers are on at the University Oval, New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 2nd day, December 12, 2008
Much of the action on the tour was interrupted by bad weather © Getty Images

While Australia and South Africa, the current heavyweights of world cricket, were slugging it out across the Tasman in a pulsating contest in front of large crowds, New Zealand and West Indies were engaged in a flyweight bout reduced almost to futility by weather more suitable for the All Blacks than the Black Caps.

The first of the two Tests was cut in half by rain and a soggy outfield at the University Oval in chilly Dunedin. There was not enough play for a decision in two of the five one-day internationals, and two of the others were decided by the artificiality of the Duckworth/Lewis method. The only matches completed without a contrived result were the drawn Second Test - an even scrap throughout until New Zealand called off their spirited pursuit of 312 in 60 overs - the third one-day international, comfortably won by New Zealand, and the two Twenty20 games. These produced one win apiece, the first to West Indies by the new tie-breaker of an eliminator, soon christened the "super over", instead of the bowl-out by which New Zealand had triumphed after the first such match between the teams, also at Auckland, had ended in a tie in 2005-06.

As significant as the cricket itself was the reaction to the experimental umpires' review system. This was being trialled in Tests for the second time, after its introduction in Sri Lanka's home series against India five months before. The consensus among players - those on the field and the old ones in the commentary boxes - was that the system was here to stay, but the limit of three unsuccessful challenges should be reduced to one.

After the weather-induced stalemate in the series, West Indies remained seventh in the ICC Test rankings with New Zealand narrowly behind. In the one-day rankings New Zealand remained fifth and West Indies stayed eighth. Both sides set out against troubled backgrounds. Following unconvincing performances in England and Bangladesh, New Zealand had been soundly trounced in two Tests in Australia, moving their former captain Martin Crowe to call it "our worst moment in Test cricket". The preceding five years had been "probably the most destructive to our game in the history of our game", he charged. West Indies, on the other hand, had not won an away series, other than in Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, since beating New Zealand in 1994- 95, and they arrived with 13 defeats, and only two wins, in their 16 oneday internationals against Test opposition in 2008.

In the circumstances New Zealand, under a new coach, the former Warwickshire batsman Andy Moles, gained more satisfaction from the outcome. Newcomers Tim McIntosh, left-handed, and Martin Guptill, right, eased the long-standing problem at the top of the order with impressive hundreds, McIntosh in his second Test, Guptill in his first one-day international. Moles's decision to swap Daniel Flynn and Jesse Ryder in the batting order in the Tests was also an instant success.

Third umpire Rudi Koertzen watches the proceedings, New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 4th day, December 14, 2008
The consensus among players - those on the field and the old ones © Getty Images

If Daniel Vettori's left-arm spin was predictably the hub around which the bowling revolved, Iain O'Brien maintained the seam-bowling progress he had made in England and Australia while, in a rare Test appearance, Jeetan Patel secured his first five-for at Napier.

With their dismal recent history it was, on paper, a welcome change for West Indies to have kept a clean sheet in the Tests and come within an over of clinching the one-day series; in reality, it was another disappointing campaign. Not one of the young players making their first tour advanced. As Ramnaresh Sarwan, who quit the vice-captaincy on arrival, batted like a man with more on his mind than runs, they relied almost exclusively on their two most experienced players, captain Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Once they were out, a collapse was never far away. Gayle was in the form of his life. His 197 in the Second Test and 135 in the fifth onedayer - both at Napier - were masterpieces; his 23 sixes and average of 70 in all matches were a measure of his dominance. Chanderpaul was the same prolific, immovable barnacle of the previous two years.

The left-hander Brendan Nash, born in Australia and appearing for West Indies two years after returning to the land of his Jamaican parents, demonstrated the value of an upbringing in the tough environment of state cricket for Queensland in two vital partnerships with Chanderpaul and Gayle in the Second Test. Meanwhile, Jerome Taylor's maiden Test hundred, at Dunedin, supported the general view that he had the makings of a genuine all-rounder. Fidel Edwards, who passed 100 wickets during his Test-best seven for 87 at Napier, spearheaded a pacy but inconsistent attack frequently let down by faulty catching.

There was also evidence of the indiscipline that has been one of the causes of West Indies' decline. Daren Powell charged through the crease during the Napier Test and deliberately threw the ball past Brendon McCullum, the feisty New Zealander. There was no sanction from either the team management or the match referee, Javagal Srinath, but there was when Kieron Pollard smashed a pane of glass in the dressing-room after he was out to a poor decision in the Wellington one-day international.

Match reports for

Tour Match: Auckland v West Indians at Auckland, Dec 5-7, 2008
Report | Scorecard

1st Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Dunedin, Dec 11-15, 2008
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Napier, Dec 19-23, 2008
Report | Scorecard

1st T20I: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Dec 26, 2008
Report | Report | Scorecard

2nd T20I: New Zealand v West Indies at Hamilton, Dec 28, 2008

1st ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Queenstown, Dec 31, 2008
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Christchurch, Jan 3, 2009
Report | Scorecard

3rd ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Wellington, Jan 7, 2009
Report | Scorecard

4th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Jan 10, 2009
Report | Scorecard

5th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Napier, Jan 13, 2009
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co.