Tour review

New Zealand vs West Indies in 2020-21

Mark Geenty

Twenty20 internationals (3): New Zealand 2, West Indies 0
Test matches (2): New Zealand 2 (120pts), West Indies 0 (0pts)

Jason Holder, West Indies' Test captain, sat at a microphone-laden table in the indoor nets beneath the Basin Reserve's R. A. Vance Stand in Wellington, and smiled ruefully. "It has been a tough year," he said. "Not just for the team, but for me personally. I haven't seen home in six months now. I have been going non-stop. We have had pay cuts…"

Asked when he would next set foot in his Barbados home, Holder said he didn't know. He took his leave, and prepared for another flight, to Australia, for a cameo in the Big Bash. A fortnight later, it was announced he would not join the tour of Bangladesh, beginning in January.

Holder and several of his players had indeed endured a sapping year: they first donned their masks back in June, to fly to England for a long incarceration in a biosecure bubble, then contested the CPL and the IPL in hotel lockdown, before the long journey to Christchurch and another bout of isolation.

It was hardly a surprise that they endured a tough time in New Zealand, losing the T20 and Test series 2-0, with both Tests ending in innings defeats. But the hosts were grateful for the sacrifices. The virus had apparently been seen off in New Zealand, thanks to a hard lockdown in March and April. It was a close-run thing, but New Zealand Cricket were able to stage their first international cricket with unrestricted crowds since the pandemic struck - and fans visited Eden Park for the T20 opener on November 27.

It was barely 24 hours since West Indies' T20 captain Kieron Pollard, and a handful of returning IPL players from each side, had completed their 14 days' managed isolation at a Christchurch hotel (at a cost to the board of $NZ7,000 per person). There had been a kerfuffle when some of the earlier arrivals were spotted socialising and sharing food in the hotel corridors, which broke the strict regulations; for a while, the whole squad were stopped from practising.

Kane Williamson and Trent Boult were among those returning from the IPL, and were excused the Twenty20 series to go home briefly before the Tests. New Zealand won both completed T20s, before the third was washed out, with Lockie Ferguson producing some searing deliveries on the way to series figures of seven for 56.

There was also a promising start for Devon Conway, the 29-year-old South African-born left-hander, who followed 41 from 29 balls on debut with an unbeaten 65 from 37 in his second match. But that was overshadowed by Glenn Phillips, who - despite a dodgy knee - blasted a 46-ball century, New Zealand's fastest in T20s.

Meanwhile, most of West Indies' Test squad were experiencing the delights of Queenstown for their warm-up matches, free of restrictions. When the Test team left for Hamilton, the reserves for both squads were transformed into West Indies A, and played two more first-class matches.

There were still hardships: on the eve of the First Test, Kemar Roach was told his father had died. He played at Hamilton - both sides wore black armbands - but returned home immediately afterwards, along with the injured Shane Dowrich.

Williamson had no first-class preparation, but it hardly showed. He stroked a classy 251 at Hamilton, his highest Test score, and a perfect demonstration of his single-minded pursuit of excellence. After victory at Wellington in the Second Test, New Zealand's unbeaten run at home stretched to 15 games since South Africa upset them there in March 2017, and they edged ever closer to the top of the world rankings.

The lanky Kyle Jamieson continued his rapid ascent, and was named Player of the Series. He brought a new dimension to New Zealand's pace attack, with steep bounce and vicious swing, which compounded West Indies' batting woes in the Tests. Across four innings, their top five totalled just 267, which Williamson would probably have outdone on his own had he not missed the Second Test to be at the birth of his first child, a daughter.

There were a few umpiring decisions that raised eyebrows during both series, which led to question marks about the use of two home officials for internationals during the pandemic. Holder understood the reasons, but said: "If we can travel and do a quarantine, I don't see why an overseas umpire can't."

© John Wisden & Co