A power-packed double-act from New Zealand's experienced duo of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor tormented West Indies' bowlers in Dunedin after Darren Sammy, without hesitation, had chosen to field on a grassy pitch
A power-packed double-act from New Zealand's experienced duo of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor tormented West Indies' bowlers in Dunedin after Darren Sammy, without hesitation, had chosen to field on a grassy pitch. The two batsmen brought up their long-awaited centuries and added 182 runs at frenetic pace to start New Zealand's summer in the best possible manner.
The last time Taylor scored a century - in November 2012 - he was still the captain of New Zealand, but the search for a triple-digit score in McCullum's Test stats takes one back by three years when he hit a double-century in India. That was 47 innings ago. In those three years, McCullum continued to feature in the New Zealand Test team, saw the captaincy move from Daniel Vettori to Taylor, then to himself, but despite the added responsibility, his batting form didn't show any signs of revival. Until today.
McCullum joined Taylor just before tea having seen three of New Zealand's top-order batsmen waste good starts by throwing their wickets away. He brought the customary approach in the third session, attacking anything marginally full or short or, in some cases, perfectly good balls with utter disdain to help New Zealand ransack 173 runs in the 35-over long last session. At least a boundary was hit in 18 of those overs.
Shane Shillingford, who underwent testing on his bowling action in Perth recently, was included in the XI by West Indies and he bore the brunt of McCullum's assault, giving away 39 runs off 38 balls including two sixes and four fours. With no bowler being able to exert any pressure, McCullum raced away to his seventh century in 101 balls, his brutal pull over midwicket and a back foot punch over extra cover, both off Shanon Gabriel, being the two standout shots in his innings.
Taylor maintained a good pace as well, reaching his ninth century in 150 balls, but it appeared as if he was just holding an end. His innings was laced with 13 fours, dominated by crisp drives and square cuts.
Sammy had gleefully said it was the greenest pitch he had ever seen but his bowlers were not able to extract any help from it. As the day wore on, it became a true batting surface and both batsmen took full toll. It was only the third time in 51 Tests the two added more than 100 together, the current partnership by far their best. The stand ensured New Zealand took the driving position in the Test after they were 194 for 3 at tea.
The top three batsmen also had starts, but they failed to cash in on the insipid bowling. The local boy, Rutherford, who hit 171 on debut here, had scored 62, but he fell to a brilliant one-handed catch by Narsingh Deonarine towards the boundary. Fulton had been patient during his stay 228-minute stay, bringing up his sixth fifty-plus score this year, but he was caught at slip while trying to push at a delivery away from his body. Aaron Redmond, the No.3 filling in for the injured Kane Williamson, was also caught off a leading edge early in the second session while trying to clip a short of length delivery. The bowlers did little of credit in the three dismissals.
Not much went as per the script for West Indies. The opening bowlers - Tino Best and Gabriel - struggled to find the right length. Best worked up some pace but with a shorter length, the batsmen found it easy to either play it comfortably off the back foot or sway away from the line.
Best dabbled with a fuller length briefly in his first spell, but Rutherford used those deliveries as a springboard to his innings. Best's spell in the second session was a big improvement as he hurried the batsmen. He managed to get Redmond's wicket and could have had Taylor early too as the batsman fended at a short delivery. The ball ballooned over the slip cordon and, to the bowler's chagrin, rolled over to the boundary. He bowled tirelessly, but with shorter length and no movement, he was not going to trouble the batsmen.
Gabriel, who was preferred over left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, remained ineffective across sessions, bowling benign spells and giving away 98 runs in his 17 overs.
Sammy, playing as the third seamer, found the movement that others didn't. He stuck to one length, getting the ball to swing away slightly and managed to find the outside edge of Fulton's bat, only to see it fly past third slip. It was Sammy who finally ended Fulton's innings just after the batsman was switching to a higher gear.
However, he too proved ineffective once Taylor and McCullum got going. The onslaught meant there was no respite in the southern hemisphere for West Indies after a month of battering in the subcontinent.