First Test

New Zealand v West Indies 2008-09

Tony Cozier

At University Oval, Dunedin, December 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 2008. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Test debuts: T. G. McIntosh; L. S. Baker, B. P. Nash.


Jerome Taylor celebrates his maiden Test century, New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 4th day, December 14, 2008
Jerome Taylor's maiden Test century was the highlight of a game marred by rain © Getty Images
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The notoriously changeable weather of the nearest Test ground to the South Pole completely washed out the second and fifth days, reducing the match to half its allocated 450 overs. The temperature seldom rose above 14°C and, after the first day, there were only fleeting glimpses of the sun.

The two completed innings established the closeness of the teams, but other issues occupied more attention. The most contentious was the use of the experimental umpires' review system, which had been tried for the first time in India's series in Sri Lanka earlier in the year. The suitability of the University Oval for hosting Test cricket so early in the season, and the design of New Zealand's new sweaters - the traditional trim of three thin stripes was replaced with a thick black band - were more parochial issues, but occupied almost as much space in the sports pages and time on radio phoneins. Nor was everyone, least of all the players, sold on the new start time of noon each day, which twice meant a finish close to 8 p.m.

Seven decisions were referred to Rudi Koertzen, the third umpire, for review on TV evidence; four were reversed, three upheld. The first, an lbw appeal by Gayle towards the end of the first day with the left-handed Flynn five short of a maiden Test hundred, was initially given not out by the debutant Indian umpire Amiesh Saheba, but was then overturned by Koertzen. In West Indies' innings, it was fully five minutes before Saheba's not-out verdict on Vettori's lbw appeal against Ramdin was finally reversed; Koertzen later explained that the delay was caused, as much as anything, by difficulties in understanding each other's accents over their two-way radios. Both decisions were marginal and, as both captains acknowledged, no reflection on Saheba's judgment. Gayle later declared himself "not really a big fan" of the innovation; Vettori's view was that it needed "a little bit of fine tuning", with the limit of unsuccessful referrals reduced from three.

The two innings took contrasting courses. New Zealand were comfortable at 226 for four after the shortened first day, but lost their last five wickets for 76 after the blank second. West Indies needed a partnership of 153 between the rock-steady Chanderpaul and Taylor, with a flamboyant maiden Test hundred, to lift them from the insecurity of 173 for six. The difference on first innings was 25 and, when Powell bowled How and night-watchman Mills with successive balls on the fourth evening, an interesting final day was in prospect - but the weather ensured it never materialised.

New Zealand were in their first match under a new coach. The former Warwickshire batsman Andy Moles, who had succeeded John Bracewell, began auspiciously with the success of his first tactical decision, switching the left-handers Flynn and Ryder in the order. Well organised in method and neat in strokeplay, Flynn, at No. 3, was rarely bothered in just under four hours before Gayle, in a spell of 15 steady overs, deceived him on the angle from round the wicket and won his lbw claim on second appeal. Meanwhile, the heavy-set Ryder's approach at No. 5 was more measured than usual, although his dozen fours were struck with their customary power. He was also nearing a maiden hundred when he swatted a long-hop from Powell to midwicket. The lower order produced useful runs, but New Zealand still finished short of the 400 Vettori had set as their goal.

Gayle and Chanderpaul, in their different ways, propped up the fragile West Indian top order on the fourth day. Gayle's belligerent 74 was made out of 114 before his top-edged hook off O'Brien was caught at fine leg. With the innings faltering, Chanderpaul dropped anchor while Taylor sailed along, completing his hundred in 97 balls and dominating their stand with a succession of handsome strokes, belying a previous first-class best of just 40. He was the 35th batsman to make his maiden century in a Test, but only the second - after his namesake Bruce Taylor, for New Zealand against India at Calcutta in 1964-65 - not to have reached 50 before. After hitting three sixes and 17 fours, Taylor was the first of four wickets to fall for only 14. Chanderpaul was last out, one of Vettori's six victims, the 18th time his control and variety had accounted for half or more of the opposition batsmen.

Man of the Match: J. E. Taylor.
Close of play: First day, New Zealand 226-4 (Ryder 54, McCullum 4); Second day, No play; Third day, West Indies 39-0 (Gayle 29, Chattergoon 9); Fourth day, New Zealand 44-2 (McIntosh 24, Flynn 4).

© John Wisden & Co.