WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- West Indies paid a heavy price for sloppy fielding, missing a chance to remove Ross Taylor early, and he gathered his second hundred in as many matches to prop up New Zealand’s batting in the second Test on Wednesday here.
Greeted by a green-top pitch and chilly, overcast weather, the Windies had the New Zealanders on the ropes early, when they removed openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford cheaply in the first hour, but they gave Taylor a reprieve before he had scored and were punished with a typically purposeful 129, as the home team reached 307 for six at the close on the opening day at the Basin Reserve, after they were sent in to bat.
Tino Best was left grieving in the second over – his fourth – of a second spell immediately following the morning’s drinks break, when Taylor essayed a loose drive at his fifth delivery outside the off-stump and Kirk Edwards muffed a shoulder-high chance at third slip that would have left New Zealand tottering on 26 for three.
As it turned out, the momentum shifted dramatically away from the visitors and Taylor gathered his 10th Test hundred to follow his double-hundred in the first Test, passed 4,000 Test runs and anchored the New Zealanders’ batting, sharing three successive half-century stands with Kane Williamson, his captain Brendon McCullum and all-rounder Corey Anderson that knocked the wind out of the Windies.
Shannon Gabriel, who had bowled throughout the day with much more accuracy and vigour than in the first Test, had Taylor brilliantly caught low down at deep backward point by a diving Shane Shillingford in the second-last over before stumps were drawn – but the former captain of the Black Caps had already inflicted the damage, striking 15 fours from 227 balls in just over five hours of batting.
Earlier, West Indies made a bright start to the Test before Taylor’s lifeline transformed the complexion of the game, as New Zealand reached 79 for two at lunch.
Best had been in the thick of the action from the very first ball of the day, when he appeared to give the match a rousing start, as umpire Paul Reiffel, a former Australia fast bowler, adjudged Fulton lbw.
The Windies fast bowler and his teammates were however, left disappointed, when the decision was overturned following a review initiated by the batsman with television replays showing he had inside-edged the ball onto his front pad.
The Caribbean side had another chance for an early scalp, but Sammy dropped Rutherford, on eight, at second slip off Gabriel in the sixth over of the morning with the home team 14 without loss.
Sammy made up for his indiscretion in the next over when he made the breakthrough. He persisted with a good length outside the off-stump and Fulton eventually sparred at the first ball of the seventh over and was caught behind for six.
Sammy and Gabriel kept the New Zealanders’ top-order batsmen on a tight rein before Best returned for his second spell from the pavilion end and had Rutherford caught behind for 11 trying to steer a rising delivery through the slips.
But Best was left heart-broken when he watched for the second straight match Taylor benefit after edging into the arc behind the stumps.
West Indies spent the remainder of the period trying not to leak runs, as Taylor and Williamson navigated their way through to the interval without further incident to lay the platform for a third-wicket stand of 88.
After lunch, Best gave the Windies their only breakthrough, removing Williamson caught at second slip for 45, trying to force a rising delivery through the off-side, leaving Taylor and McCullum to carry the hosts to 186 for three at tea.
Either side of this success, the visitors failed to maintain control, as runs came far too easily for New Zealand’s batsmen, allowing Taylor to stay in the groove, reaching his 50 from 80 balls with his seventh four, a pull through mid-wicket off Gabriel, and McCullum to settle in.
Sammy came close to removing his opposite number, when McCullum, on 28, pulled a short ball to deep mid-wicket, but a despairing dive from Narsingh Deonarine only succeeded in him getting his fingertips to the ball, as it sped into the boundary for the batsman’s fifth four.
After tea, Deonarine set the New Zealanders back in the third over after the break, when he had McCullum caught at short mid-wicket for 37 from a chipped drive, bringing a close to a flourishing fourth-wicket stand of 77 between the Black Caps’ current and immediate past captains.
But West Indies endured further frustration, when Corey Anderson came to the crease and batted with Taylor to put on 68 for the fifth wicket and hustle New Zealand past 250, clubbing key off-spinner Shane Shillingford for a couple of meaty sixes over long-on.
Shillingford gained his revenge, when Anderson tried to sweep a delivery and was caught at forward short leg for 38. Umpire Reiffel turned down the West Indies appeal, but fielder Kieran Powell insisted that Sammy asked for a review and TV infra-red replays showed a clear mark on the bat, suggesting an inside edge onto the pad.
Eager to catch up on the over rate, Sammy employed Shillingford and Deonarine for 31 straight overs either side of tea during which Taylor took no chances.
A delivery from Deonarine was stroked to mid-off for a single to take Taylor to his milestone from 204 balls and he seemed prepared to bat with freedom for the rest of the day, after the second new-ball arrived following the 80th over in the scheduled final half-hour.
Best was given the privilege of bowling the first delivery and Taylor drove him straight for his 12th boundary before collecting three more fours of the West Indies fast bowler in the third over with the new cherry.
To add insult to injury, Best dropped a swirling, but simple enough chance from Taylor, on 122, in the next over off Gabriel.
Two overs later, Gabriel was again grieving, when Taylor, on 125, edged a loose drive outside the off-stump and a leaping Sammy got his right hand to the ball, but failed to hold on.
Gabriel continued to persevere and Shillingford ended his drought, as another intriguing day came to a conclusion.
West Indies fielded an unchanged line-up, but the New Zealanders brought Williamson in to replace Aaron Redmond.
The three-Test series is level 0-0, following a draw in the first Test which ended last Saturday at University Oval in Dunedin.
The Windies have lost their last two Tests at this venue, but the Black Caps have had a hard time playing in their capital city – failing to win on the last seven occasions dating back to third Test of their 2008-9 home series against India.
The visitors’ previous victory at this venue by an innings and 322 runs was under the captaincy of fast bowling legend Courtney Walsh. It was nearly two decades ago and was also the last time they won a Test – and consequently, a Test series – in this country.
NEW ZEALAND 1st Innings
P. Fulton c wkpr Ramdin b *Sammy 6
H. Rutherford c wkpr Ramdin b Best 11
K. Williamson c *Sammy b Best 45
R. Taylor c Shillingford b Gabriel 129
*B. McCullum c Edwards b Deonarine 37
Corey Anderson c Powell b Shillingford 38
+B. Watling not out 8
T. Southee not out 9
Extras (b16, lb6, nb2) 24
TOTAL (6 wkts) 307
I. Sodhi, N. Wagner, T. Boult to bat
Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Fulton), 2-24 (Rutherford), 3-112 (Williamson), 4-189 (*McCullum), 5-257 (Anderson), 6-296 (Taylor)
Bowling: Best 14-1-66-2; Gabriel 18-4-56-1 (nb1); *Sammy 19-3-65-1; Shillingford 23-4-59-1 (nb1); Deonarine 16-2-39-1
WEST INDIES: K. Powell, K. Edwards, D.M. Bravo, M. Samuels, S. Chanderpaul, N. Deonarine, +D. Ramdin, *D. Sammy, S. Shillingford, T. Best, S. Gabriel
Toss: West Indies
Umpires: I. Gould (England), P. Reiffel (Australia)
TV umpire: N. Llong (England)
Match referee: R. Mahanama (Sri Lanka)
Reserve umpire: G. Baxter (New Zealand)