Re-opening the Stable Doors

13th December 2013

When the Sawdust Settles – match reviews

2nd Test Match: New Zealand v West Indies at Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand 441 (Taylor 129) beat West Indies 193 (Boult 6-40) & 175 by an innings and 73 runs

Friday the 13th December 2013 proved itself rather an inauspicious day for West Indian cricket. A day on which they shamefacedly bowed their heads beneath a ladder and fell headlong – the rungs of which may soon see New Zealand above them in the Test rankings. After the act of God which aided and abetted their exit from Dunedin with honours even, if not honour entirely intact, they were struck down with avengeance at Wellington.

Trent Boult thundered in and hit them mortally, with a lightning quick 10-80 in the match. He is not fast, but his retribution was swift, and his seductive left-arm over bowling swung the series firmly in the hosts’ favour.

It was possible to take positives out of the 1st Test draw, but a larger part of the Caribbean’s pessimistic public preferred to focus on the negatives ahead of the 2nd Test. Many critics saw no reason not to expect further calamitous batting, rather than more of the type of fortitude typified by Bravo.

The doom-mongers still assumed the West Indies would make heavy weather of the next contest, not blossom with a new-found vigour. And they were right.

The portents had not been good. The team’s fearful flight from Dunedin to Wellington had left them rattled and edgy. Manager, Otis Gibson described the journey as “scary” and “terrifying”, while captain, Darren Sammy admitted he was “screaming like my daughter” when it seemed the players might be about to meet their maker.

Yet despite the preliminary upsetting of the skipper’s equilibrium, things had started well on the first morning with the winning of a handy toss. McCullum had been equally keen to do as Sammy did: put them in.

At 24-2 it looked good. When Edwards dropped first Test double centurion Ross Taylor off Tino Best on 0, Sammy looked askance. It was now Best’s turn to let out a childlike primal scream of horror. New Zealand never looked back.

Taylor’s 129 was the backbone of New Zealand’s 441, ably supported by steady middle-order contributions, and hearty hitting from Boult – the number 11 scoring 38 of the 58 he added for the last wicket with Wattling in 8 overs. The first day had closed with NZ a respectable 307-6, but bold hitting and poor bowling saw the home side rack up a further 134 runs in 25 overs in the first session on day two.

The comedy highlight of the carnage was Tino Best’s uproarious dropped catch at deep square leg. In his best Monty Panesar impression, Tino ran in, ran back, did the hokey-cokey, and dived one-handed to parry away to the boundary a chance he should have safely bucketed if he’d remained calm and stood his ground.

Sprawled on the outfield, the forlorn King’s Fool looked up from his prone position to see the shoes and feet of his coach. The disdain with which Otis Gibson looked pointedly away from the sad-eyed clown’s gaze merely reinforced the cartoon hilarity.

“Laughable” observed an unimpressed and underwhelmed Ian Bishop.

Best finished with four wickets, but his faulty range-finder meant he leaked 110 runs in 21 overs in return. Gabriel again was unconvincing, and Shillingford, doubtless perturbed by the pending results of the investigation of his bowling action, lacked his usual bite and penetration.

This was the umpteenth occasion in recent times that the West Indies attack, despite some early success, looked generally toothless. Sammy’s failure to convince anyone he is a Test class performer, least of all opposition batsmen, always leaves the side looking a bowler short. Along with the absence of Roach, the waywardness of Best and docility of Gabriel, West Indies have for a long time looked a seamer short of a pace bowling complement.

The host broadcasting team picked up on this, highlighting the foolishness of Deonarine’s place in the side as the bits-and-pieces man and third change bowler. His inclusion at no. 6 in the order made sense in India, his off-breaks providing a viable option on the predictable turning tracks. But here in New Zealand, on greenish wickets, his selection was pure folly.

Where is either Kieron Pollard or Dwayne Smith, the New Zealand TV commentators asked? Surely their muscular batting and ability to purvey phantom mediums would have been more useful on these pitches? Absolutely.

The fact that Smith was preparing for his latest Twenty20 adventure with the Perth Scorchers in the Australian Big Bash, and Pollard was unfit did not undermine their point. Nor does the fact that Pollard, who is yet to play Test cricket, has only played four first-class games in the last four and a half years preclude him from appearing in a five-day game. It just means he’d be less likely to have much aptitude for it.

Nonetheless, the Caribbean does have other guys in this mould who’d have provided a similar batting/bowling option, like Dave Bernard or Jonathan Carter, to name but two.

Day 2 ended with West Indies 158-4 in reply.

I doubt many of us foresaw the game being over twenty four hours later. However many times you witness a galloping West Indian collapse, you don’t automatically expect to experience the same cringe-inducing catastrophe every time. And hadn’t Bravo shut the stable doors in Dunedin? Well they were only loosely on the latch and the horses Boulted.

Day 3 – West Indies 210-16. Game over.

In the first dig Sammy, Shillingford, Best and Gabriel were all sent packing for 0; the first time ever West Indies’ numbers 8-11 have each been dismissed for 0 in the same innings. Boult 6-40. All out 193 and swiftly following on. This was only the third time New Zealand had been able to enforce the follow on against West Indies. The first had been in 1999. The second had been a mere fortnight ago.

Someone on the telly summed up the difference between the two sides: New Zealand pitched it up and hit the stumps. West Indies bowled short rubbish.

In again, West Indies rallied briefly second time around. At 74 without loss the tourists even looked comfortable, both openers on thirty-odd. Ian Bishop speculated they could get far enough ahead to set New Zealand a challenging fourth innings target. In retrospect this comment was as amusing as Tino’s fielding.

The Commentator’s Curse rule was immediately invoked and Powell trotted back to the pavilion. This was his thirteenth successive score below 50 in Tests since his hundred in each innings against Bangladesh in Khulna a year ago.

The last ten wickets tumbled for 101. Boult 4-40 plus a stupendous catch to snare Ramdin. Sammy and Gabriel both suffered the unusual embarrassment of bagging a ‘both-innings-on-the-same-day’ pair.

Crash. Bang. Wallop. What a sorry picture. The innings crumbled in a heap. The cascading chaos handed West Indies a heavy, humbling defeat. They have plenty to be humble about, and have been thus of late: this was their third three-day innings defeat in four Test Matches.

Ignominy.

I hope they have a more comfortable flight to Hamilton, and remember to close the cabin doors firmly behind them.

David Oram

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