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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — West Indies captain Darren Sammy said his side will be looking to shift the balance of power in their three-Test series against New Zealand.
The second Test between the two sides opens on Wednesday at the Basin Reserve here with the series level 0-0.
This follows a high-scoring draw in the first Test which ended last Saturday at University Oval in Dunedin, where persistent rain after the scheduled tea break on the final day formalised the result.
A sensational, maiden double-hundred from Darren Bravo helped the Windies recover from a first innings deficit of 396 and set the New Zealanders 112 for victory.
The visitors had restricted the home team to 79 for four when rain prompted an early tea and the players never returned to the field due to the weather.
Sammy said his side had fought hard to get back into the first Test – and now they hoped to ride the wave of that confidence to put New Zealand on the back-foot.
“[The performance in the first Test] has done a lot for the team,” said Sammy on the eve of the Test. “It was good to see us batting for long periods. It’s been a long time since we have batted more than 150 overs in any innings, much less the second innings.
“It will give the individual players confidence that they can go out there and get the job done when they have been put under some serious pressure. We handled it quite well and it has given us more confidence going into this Test.”
West Indies have lost their last two Tests at this venue, but the New Zealanders 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 Windies 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.
The ground-staff have prepared a pitch which is hardly recognisable from the lush green outfield and has become the major talking point ahead of the Test.
Sammy said he expected the pace-based bowling attack of the Black Caps to revel in the conditions and try to make life difficult for his side.
“The good thing is that we have seen what they have and now that we are on their home turf and they put pressure on us, we were good enough to respond,” he said. “I think they played their best cricket in the first Test and yet they failed to get the victory they desired, so this time around we will be looking to put pressure on them.
“The pitch looks like the matting they are using in the indoor nets here. I don’t think many of our players would have played on a surface so green before, unless they played league cricket in England. If it is anything like the pitch in Dunedin, it will still be a good batting surface.”
Sammy said his side had tried to get the best local knowledge of the pitch and it seemed to suggest that the pitch usually offers good bounce and pace and the extra grass should provide some sideways movement.
“We will have to approach it with an open mind and look to have a good game,” he said. “I think we left Dunedin with a bit of confidence. Although we did not play our best cricket, we salvaged a draw, and now we are looking to improve further from that performance.
“When you see a pitch like this, 99 times out of 100 you bowl first if you win the toss. Hopefully, the grass does not trick us and I can win the toss.”
Sammy said: “Before we came here, we were told the pitches would be very flat. We know New Zealand is a very lush country, but to see a pitch like this, I could not see New Zealand playing West Indies in the past and preparing a pitch like this.
“It shows things have changed over the years and I think the threat of Sunil Narine and Shane Shillingford bowling on a worn fourth and fifth day pitch against them is in the back of their minds. They are at home and their attack is pace-oriented, so no one can fault them for this.”
Sammy was hampered in the first Test by a tight right glute for which he has been receiving treatment over the last few days – but he is expected to take his rightful place in the side.
“I am feeling very confident about it,” he said. “I had the first part of my fitness test before training and everything seemed good. I just need to bowl a few deliveries in the nets and see how it holds up, but everything seems good right now.”
The Test will mark the 50th for stylish middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels, who also needs 97 to cross the 3,000-run threshold in Tests for West Indies.
Opener Kieran Powell will be looking to score a minimum of 39 to reach 1,000.