Aug 02, 2012 Sports
Cricinfo – Kieran Powell was 19 when West Indies last won a Test series against opponents other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. He celebrated his birthday on the first day of the Trinidad Test against England, which ended with West Indies’ Nos. 7 and 10 clinging on for dear life to secure a scrappy 1-0 victory in a five-match series. He was 13 when West Indies won before that. Powell, now 22, is one of a generation of young cricketers who have grown up watching West Indies struggle to win series. At Sabina Park, he will have the opportunity to be part of a rare triumph if West Indies draw or win to protect their 1-0 lead.
Kane Williamson was 15 when New Zealand last beat a Test side other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh – a 2-0 win against West Indies in 2006. He was 11 when New Zealand last won such a series away from home – in West Indies in 2002. New Zealand cannot win this series, but a victory in Kingston will secure a draw and build on their relatively satisfactory recent performances – a drawn series in Australia, a 0-1 defeat against South Africa.
Like they did in Hobart so memorably, New Zealand will have to win without Daniel Vettori, who’s out with a groin injury. Vettori’s 2012 hasn’t been productive – he’s taken only one wicket in each of his last five Tests. What he does provide New Zealand unfailingly, however, is economy and, with it, a measure of control. Vettori conceded less than two and a half per over in four of those five Tests. His poorest return was 2.81. He reined in Chris Gayle after the batsman had raced to a half-century in the first innings in Antigua. Someone else will have to do that job in Jamaica.
New Zealand’s challenge will be to control the pace of the game. Their inexperienced bowling attack needs to slow West Indies down at the start in order to allow Ross Taylor to keep wicket-taking fields. Their batsmen need to find a way not to stagnate against Narine and the rest in high-pressure scenarios like they did on the final morning of the first Test.
West Indies, on the other hand, won in Antigua with no contribution from their most reliable player – Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Chris Gayle made a huge splash in his comeback Test, while Narine and Roach took turns to run through New Zealand in each innings. There were useful contributions from several others, too, and Chanderpaul hailed the “fantastic team effort.” A similar performance, beginning tomorrow, will make it extremely hard for New Zealand to force a win.
For a country that earned a reputation by felling stronger sides, New Zealand showed little fight in Antigua. They dropped catches, their fielding was sloppy, and their batsmen’s ultra-cautious approach to saving the Test did not last long enough to be successful. Neil Wagner, who is one-Test old, promised New Zealand would come out fighting today. He spoke of being ruthless and giving West Indies nothing. Without Vettori, that will be a little harder.
Sunil Narine was Man of the Match in his first home Test, taking eight wickets in the match. He had to toil through 85 overs for them, though, and called his performance a “big achievement” because of the conditions he had to bowl in. Martin Guptill, who made 97 and 67, said the New Zealand batsman had begun to play Narine better now that they’d seen a bit of him. The threat posed by Narine could be significantly enhanced if the Sabina Park pitch is to his liking.
West Indies brought Fidel Edwards into the squad because Ravi Rampaul sustained a groin strain. However, with Tino Best, who sat out in the first Test, already in the squad, Edwards might have to watch from the sidelines.
And New Zealand have to fill Vettori’s spot and the only other specialist spinner in the squad is the legspinner Tarun Nethula, who could be in line for a Test debut.
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