All the pre-series talk was about the off spinner from Trinidad who was going to run circles around the New Zealand batsmen; no one could have predicted that it would be Narsingh Deonarine who would be dealing the decisive blows. In a spell that stretched from the end of day two to the post lunch session on day three in Jamaica, Deonarine put on a show of accurate off spin, controlling the loop, keeping the New Zealand batsmen pinned to the crease and, importantly, claiming four top-order batsmen with it.
It was not really a surprise that Darren Sammy leaned on Deonarine to bowl unchanged in a 17-over spell. After all, he was the third-highest wicket-taker for West Indies in the home series against Australia earlier this year. For someone considered a part-time spinner, generally brought on to give to the frontline bowlers a break, that isn't too shabby.
When Sammy threw the ball to Deonarine, towards the close of play on day two, with only three overs to go, no one could have expected the kind of indelible mark he would leave on the match. Guptill and BJ Watling had seen through the tough early period and had pushed New Zealand's lead to 106. Seven deliveries later, with no runs conceded and both openers gone lbw, West Indies were back on top.
The batsmen could be faulted for playing on the back foot, and deep within the crease, but credit must be given to Deonarine for pushing them back and beating the attempted onside strokes with the turn he generated on a second day Sabina Park pitch. "Looking at the New Zealand batsmen, variation was the key. I think we have outfoxed them with flight, slower [through] the air and the quicker ball as well," Deonarine said. "They keep hanging out on the back foot. We just worked them out, and the slower we bowl, harder it is for them to play."
Looking at the numbers from this Test, it is safe to say Deonarine has out-bowled his fellow Trinidad spinner, Sunil Narine. With fast bowlers expected to do most of the damage on this pitch, it was a pleasant surprise for West Indies that Deonarine took six of 20 wickets. He technically may not be the "lead spinner" in the side, but he thinks like one: "Whenever the skipper gives me the ball, I want to do my best. [I look to] just take wickets, whenever I get my chance."
Deonarine was called upon by his captain even in the first innings, just as a threatening stand between Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill was taking shape. Then, he enticed a false stroke from Williamson just before tea on day one, but could not hold on to the hard return chance offered. He made amends when he lured Williamson into swishing at a wide delivery that was pouched by Sammy at first slip. He topped off the effort with the wicket of Kruger van Wyk, pushing him into indecision with his delicate control of flight and length. In the second innings, again, he had Williamson wafting outside off, and Brendon McCullum, off a simple bat-pad catch, to round off his match-haul of six.
Many may have thought he was just filling the role of a backup spinner but he pointed out that he is "accustomed to bowling 30 or 40 overs [for Guyana in first-class cricket]", and it's nothing new to him, bowling long spells like he did on Saturday.
Now, he is quite confident about the West Indies knocking off the remaining 71 runs to win the Test series 2-0. The bedrock of West Indies batting, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, was out in the middle at stumps, but if required (and weather permitting), Deonarine would be ready to do the job too. Would he have had a nervous night then? The expectedly confident reply: "No, not at all."