By Andrew Fidel Fernando
New Zealand 286 for 7 (Raval 84, de Grandhomme 58, Gabriel 3-83) v West Indies
(ESPNcricinfo) A measured 84 from Jeet Raval, and a Colin de Grandhomme blitz bookended New Zealand’s day, but it was West Indies’ quicks who made the best of it, starting off slowly, then working themselves into a fine rhythm by stumps. The hosts are still nicely placed, at 286 for 7, with the pitch expected to get quicker on days two and three. However, in breaking through to the tail with the second new ball, West Indies have given themselves a chance in this match – which is more than what could have been said at a similar stage of the game in Wellington.
It was Shannon Gabriel who, having leaked boundaries with the first new ball, inflicted important blows with the second, dismissing de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner after the pair had put on 76 for the sixth wicket.
He had also claimed the wicket of Raval during West Indies’ resurgent period in the middle of the day. New Zealand had had 154 runs for the loss of just one wicket, before Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Miguel Cummins and Raymon Reifer combined to claim four wickets either side of the tea break. Where Gabriel bowled both good spells and poor ones through the course of the day, Cummins, Roach and debutant left-armer Reifer were much more consistent, delivering tight lines and muzzling New Zealand’s batsmen when they threatened to attack. Between the three of them, they claimed four wickets and conceded only 118 runs from 53 combined overs.
That West Indies ended in a creditable position is testament to the attack’s fortitude, for their day had not begun well. Gabriel was driven for two boundaries by Raval in the first over, and had been guilty of pitching too full -perhaps in search of swing or seam movement, which did not eventuate. Raval was assured through that first session, pulling with authority and rotating the strike with ease, as he had Tom Latham built an opening partnership of 65. The scoring did slow down soon after lunch, however. Kane Williamson, who replaced Latham at the crease after the opener had gloved a pull shot off Cummins, was left scoreless for the first 17 balls he faced in the second session, 12 of which were delivered by Reifer. That period of tight bowling from West Indies helped produce the wickets that came later in the session – Williamson caught behind down the leg side off Cummins, before Gabriel drew an outside edge from Raval with a length ball that seamed across the batsman.
When, soon after tea, Roach and Reifer also struck in quick succession to remove Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls, New Zealand had lost four wickets for 45 runs, and were reduced to 189 for 5.
It was at this stage that de Grandhomme reclaimed some ground for his side. Having taken 11 balls to make his first run, and having perhaps been dropped by the wicketkeeper off the offspin of Roston Chase for 8, de Grandhomme walloped 42 runs – including three sixes and a four off chase – off 25 balls, to register a half-century. He used Seddon Park’s small boundaries to his advantage, as even some good deliveries were muscled to the fence. He had threatened to reassert New Zealand’s control over the match when West Indies took the second new ball, and Gabriel struck immediately. Mitchell Santner lost his off stump to a ball that pitched on leg and nipped slightly back, beating his booming drive. De Grandhomme was himself dismissed in similar fashion, though for him the ball seamed in the other direction.
Tom Blundell, New Zealand’s debutant centurion from the last match, remained not out alongside Neil Wagner at stumps.
Though West Indies will be pleased with the manner in which they closed out the day, there will be some consternation about their over rate. They were three overs short of the target of 90, even though the extra half-hour was used. That regular captain Jason Holder is suspended for this match is of course down to West Indies having been too slow to complete their overs in the first Test. This time, it is stand-in captain Kraigg Brathwaite who is at risk of being penalised.