Sabina Park, Jamaica, 8th-12th June 2014
While for some reason Fox Sports are not showing the England v Sri Lanka Test series in Australia (a long time since an England home Test hasn’t been available), they are broadcasting the three Test series in the Caribbean featuring the hosts and the touring New Zealanders. A West Indian home series is good early morning viewing before work (play usually ends at 8 AM) or a good chance to see the first session if you are up late. I managed to do quite a bit of both.
A good toss for the Kiwis to win on a docile pitch. Long gone are the days of a bouncy, glass like Sabina Park pitch. The tourists racked up an impressive 7/508 declared in their first innings. Kane Williamson, one of the best young batsman in world cricket, top scored with 113, the 23 year old’s sixth Test ton. Technically correct, a superb driver of the ball, he has made number 3 his own. Jimmy Neesham, another 23 year old who burst onto the scene in the last Test the Kiwis played with an unbeaten 137 off 154 balls against India in Wellington (the same innings Brendon McCullum made 302), made it two centuries in his first two Tests with 107 off 171 balls. The Otago left handed all-rounder is probably only in the team due to the abscence, by injury, of another extremely talented 23 year old all-rounder in Corey Anderson. He’s making the most of his chances.
Tom Latham came into the team to open ahead of incumbent Hamish Rutherford and the left hander impressed with 83 in just his second Test match. Wicket-keeper BJ Watling made 89 and former skipper Ross Taylor 55, as the Black Caps set an imposing first innings total. Spinners Sulieman Benn (3/142) and Shane Shillingford (3/145) took six of the seven wickets to fall. Quicks Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach bowled tightly and with good pace on an unresponsive wicket.
Chris Gayle was back in the West Indies Test team for his 100th Test and passed 7000 career runs in his innings of 64. However it is Shivnarine Chanderpaul, again, who had to battle to give the Windies some respectability. The left hander from Guyana, who turns 40 in August, is still by far the best West Indian Test batsman. While there is not much competition, he’s still as effective as he’s ever been in his 154th Test. Chanderpaul remained unbeaten on 84 as his team collapsed around him to be all out for 262. New Windies skipper Dinesh Ramdin makes 39 in the only other worthwhile contribution. For the Kiwis Tim Southee continues his rise as a world class fast bowler with 4/19, while debutante Otago off-spinner Mark Craig took 4/91.
New Zealand looked to score quick runs in their second dig but struggled along to make 8/156 before declaring. Tom Latham was the main contributor with his second half century for the match, a well-made 73. The Latham name is a familiar New Zealand cricketing name: you may remember his father Rod Latham, who played four Tests and 33 ODI’s for the Black Caps in the early 1990s, including opening the batting with Mark Greatbatch in New Zealand’s 1992 World Cup campaign and making his only Test century (119) against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo.
Jerome Taylor (3/28) and Kemar Roach (2/12) finally got some reward for their excellent fast bowling. In these times of Windies players seemingly lacking passion for their regional team and prefering the lure of global T20 tournaments, it was heartening to see Roach kiss the West Indies badge on his shirt after taking one of his wickets.
Set 403 to win, the Windies were all out for 216. That total was very much boosted by tail-ender Shane Shillingford slapping the second fastest 50 in Test history (25 balls) in his unbeaten 53. Skipper Ramdin made 34 and Chanderpaul contributed 24. Mark Craig took 4/97 to give him 8/188 for the match and the man-of-the-match award on debut. An off-spinner with a very front-on action who got his chance because of the lack of Daniel Vettori’s fitness and Jeethan Patel opting to play County cricket instead. He may be hard to remove. Indian-born 21 year old leg-spinner Ish Sodhi took 3/42 and Tim Southee added two more wickets to his first innings haul.
A very good team performance by the Kiwis. A talented team very much on the up. They’ll be very hard to beat over the next few years, especially in New Zealand.
NEW ZEALAND 7/508 dec. (KS Williamson 113, JDS Neesham 107, BJ Watling 89, TWM Latham 83, SJ Benn 3/142, S Shillingford 3/145) &
8/156 dec. (TWM Latham 83, JE Taylor 3/28, KAJ Roach 2/12) def.
WEST INDIES 262 (S Chanderpaul 84*, CH Gayle 64, D Ramdin 39, TG Southee 4/19, MD Craig 4/91) &
216 (S Shillingford 53*, D. Ramdin 34, MD Craig 4/97, IS Sodhi 3/42, TG Southee 2/32)
New Zealand won by 186 runs