Williamson pleased with bowlers' adaptability

On a track that wasn't offering as much assistance as expected, the New Zealand captain praised his bowlers' strategy to break West Indies' second-innings resistance

The adaptability New Zealand's bowlers showed in overcoming West Indies' second-innings resistance on a track that did not assist them as much as expected was one of the most pleasing aspects of their innings win for captain Kane Williamson.
Having conceded a 386-run first-innings lead, West Indies were steady at 231 for 2 early on the fourth morning, before New Zealand came back with the new ball to bowl them out for 319, and secure an innings-and-67-run win.
"We knew in the second innings as the wicket became a little bit flatter it was going to be a tough job to bowl them out and they were 200 for 2," Williamson said. "I thought the bowlers were exceptional to change their tact of thought to play the long game, be patient with how they operated and we saw the rewards later on until the second session today. So it was a great effort with the ball in hand.
"It was a brilliant all-round performance. The ball in hand on a good surface, it was nice to bowl first up but it didn't offer as much as we thought. The guys adapted and bowled very well and then to put the runs on the board to get a long way ahead of the game by getting 500-plus with a number of contributions from all players in the order is always a great thing going into the next game. I suppose one of the most pleasing things was how the guys adapted with the ball when it was really tough to pick up wickets in the second innings."
Williamson pointed to the difference in bowling strategies between the first and fourth days as an example of his side's adaptability. With hardly any seam movement on the first day, Neil Wagner bowled West Indies out for 134 with a short-ball barrage and claimed a career-best 7 for 39. In the second innings, Kraigg Brathwaite and Shimron Hetmyer had built a solid partnership as the pitch got easier to bat on, and it forced New Zealand to be patient, especially after Wagner was expensive on the third day.
"In the first innings, a lot of those dismissals were well-executed but a little unique and it was probably a little bit similar in the last session with perhaps a couple of catches at cover and those sorts of things," Williamson said of the two West Indies innings. "But that is the nature of playing the long game. As the wicket gets flatter in our conditions it is important you adjust your plans, tighten things up with the ball. The way the guys did it today was outstanding and after building up some pressure, we earned those rewards.
"I suppose with the short-pitched stuff they had a slightly different plan in the first innings but the wicket did change a bit. It was probably a good plan when the wicket did lose its pace and bounce. [At] 220 for 2 they were gaining a bit of momentum, it would have been a huge effort if they had put up 550 or something on the board. Then in the last innings of the match, you never know what might have happened. It was a great effort to hold strong for a long time and then pick up those rewards."
Williamson reserved special praise for Wagner, who finished with his best match figures of 9 for 141. After struggling on the third day, the lower order wickets of Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder with a fairly new ball would also have helped Wagner's confidence.
"He's been brilliant. His ability to bowl that short-pitch bowling as accurately as he does is not an easy thing to do," Williamson said. "Not too many bowlers are able to do that that accurately and for that long period of time. One thing was, [for] Neil in the last couple of years one of his biggest assets has been his fuller length as well, and he's bowled a number of overs for not many runs and taking on different roles for the ball in hand. Maybe a few years ago he was just bowling short and being really effective to perhaps the last couple of years where the plan hasn't been utilised so much and it is probably Neil's plan rather than a big team thing.
"We saw in the second innings that that short stuff was not as easy, the ball wasn't getting up. And the nature of it [was such], you might go for a few but you create a few opportunities as well and he was able to change his length today and bowl really well and economically as well. So he's been playing a number of different roles which is great for us."
It wasn't easy for New Zealand with the bat. Their mammoth first-innings lead was built on an innings of 520 for 9, a total which would have looked difficult from a score 281 for 6. Centuries from Colin de Grandhomme and debutant wicketkeeper Tom Blundell, batting at Nos 7 and 8, propelled them. De Grandhomme blasted the second-fastest Test century by a New Zealand batsman, slamming 105 off 74 deliveries in the last session of the second day, while Blundell struck a patient 107 not out.
"For Colin, where he's batting, to come out after the guys had put in a huge effort to weather the storm, the West Indies bowled really well and really disciplined for long periods of time. But because the likes of Ross [Taylor] and Henry Nicholls showed some strong defence, it allowed the likes of Colin and Tom to come out and be positive and it was a really good blueprint of batting.
"For Colin to come out and play like that, I think that will create a lot more confidence in his approach. He does keep things very simple, plays a fairly similar way every time he goes out but he's been fantastic for us for a long period of time whether that's with the bat or ball and even in the field."
Williamson said Blundell had been brilliant throughout his first Test.
"In order to play a knock like he did, and in some ways unique in terms of the situation we were in - we wanted a big score and it required a lot of hard work - there was some pressure initially. It's your first Test so there's always a little bit of pressure and a few nerves. But to then take the game that much further in terms of getting underway and then picking up the run rate, batting with those lower-order batters. They're all great experiences. He's a mature guy, he's played a lot of cricket. It was great having him in the group and he did really, really well."