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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — West Indies head coach Ottis Gibson said on Monday his side had made their own luck and earned a draw in the first Test, but will be looking to build on the confidence they gained from their fight-back for the remainder of the series against New Zealand.
Gibson was speaking following a training session ahead of the second Test which opens on Wednesday at the Basin Reserve in the New Zealand capital.
The training was disrupted by rain, restricting the team to fitness and fielding drills, as well as the use of the indoor nets.
“The great golfer Gary Player once said that the harder he worked, the luckier he got,” said Gibson. “We worked hard on the fourth day of the first Test and we felt we earned our bit of good fortune on the final day.
“If we had capitulated on the fourth day like we did in the first innings and didn’t take it into the final day, we would not have had that luck. It works both ways. New Zealand would have felt unlucky, but they know the conditions better than us. They knew when the rain would have been coming or not.”
Rain and the New Zealanders’ cautious approach combined to earn the Windies a draw in the first Test which ended last Saturday at University Oval in Dunedin.
Shane Shillingford, who opened the bowling, sent a few shivers through the Black Caps’ dressing room, collecting 4-26 from 15 overs, as the hosts, chasing 112 for victory, reached 79 for four in their second innings when rain prompted the tea break five minutes earlier than scheduled on the final day. The players never returned to the field.
The Test was marked by two outstanding batting performances with West Indies left-hander Darren Bravo following up Ross Taylor’s undefeated 217 with a maiden Test double-hundred of his own of 218, as the visitors were bowled out for 507 in their second innings.
The Windies had been dismissed for 213 in their first innings, after Taylor and New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum with 113, allowed the home team to declared on 609 for nine after being sent into bat on the first day.
The result meant that the three-Test series remained level at 0-0.
Reflecting further on the performance of the team in the first Test, Gibson said: “I think, like I say to the players, sometimes preparation is everything and I don’t think we had ideal preparation going into the Dunedin Test.
“The lack of preparation showed in our first two innings – our bowling first and first innings batting – where to be fair to New Zealand, they played well over the first two or three days and then we fought back really well which was very pleasing.
“It gives us more confidence going into the second Test and we are a more settled group – a few guys still have sniffles and colds – but we’re full of confidence from the way we fought from the second innings in Dunedin.”
Gibson said although Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels did not play a major part in the second innings fight-back, there was great satisfaction that other players had shown enough application to transform the fortunes of the side.
“It’s satisfying that we drew, but we still want our best players to be making contributions,” he said. “We know Shiv passed 11,000 runs during the match and Marlon has had a good couple of years since his return to the side, but he is now going through a down period. They are our key players and we support them through their ups and downs, but it’s good to see performances coming from other places in the team.
“The New Zealanders played very well for no reward, but they now know if they are going to beat us, they will have to play as good as they did or better. If they have got it within them, we will have to wait and see.”
Gibson said, however, it was clear that there were areas of side’s performance that needed improvement for West Indies to remain competitive in the series and earn their first Test victory, let alone Test series win, in New Zealand for 18 years.
“As a bowling group, we need to improve, and as a batting group, we need to improve on our first innings performance,” he said. “I don’t think you can always bat from behind in a Test. This is something that has been happening for a long time, and even during our spell where we won six straight Tests, the first innings totals were inadequate.
“It’s about discipline of doing the same thing over and over and that is what Test matches require. It is, sometimes, about mind over matter. . .getting the ball, for instance as a bowler, in the right place and being patient.”
He added: “Every time our bowlers got three or four balls in an over in the right place, we looked like we could get an edge. . .The edges went over slip sometimes and so on, but the New Zealand batsmen just had to sit and wait for a short, wide delivery or a full delivery from which to score.
“If you look at the way they bowled to us, they bowled with great discipline especially in that first innings and we just have to learn from them. We have to learn patience. It is a skill that we certainly need to work on as a bowling group.”
Looking ahead to the second Test, Gibson said the desire to include a second spin bowling option was there – but pitch conditions would be the ultimate deciding factor.
The pitch for the Test was barely noticeable from the outfield when the covers were peeled away from the square following light to moderate morning showers during the Windies training session.
“The two-spinner option. . .that’s a strong possibility,” he said. “We have to look at the pitch first. We’ve heard some things about it, that we won’t be able to tell the pitch from the outfield, so that will make us think for sure about two spinners or not.
“Shannon Gabriel did not have a good Test, he did not bowl very well, but we believe in him – that’s why we picked him – he’s shown he can be a quality performer, but we have to give him and Sheldon Cottrell all the support and give them the confidence they need to perform for us.”
Also looming over preparations was the outcome of the independent testing on the bowling actions of key off-spinner Shillingford and Samuels’ part-time off-spin.
Shillingford had his doosra and Samuels had his faster ball checked in Perth in neighbouring Australia two Fridays ago during an ICC-mandated independent investigation into their bowling actions, after they were reported by the umpires during the second Test against India last month in Mumbai.
The report was to be handed over to the ICC within a 14-day period which comes to a conclusion on the third day of the Test here.
“We have not heard anything from the ICC,” said Gibson. “We have left it up to them. They are the ones that have to digest the reports and give us the results. Hopefully, the results will be favourable for us and he can get on with his career. . .
“If nothing is said before the Test starts on Wednesday, I don’t believe we will know until after the game. I don’t think it would be fair to him to issue the results in the middle of the game. We would prefer it to take place before the game starts on Wednesday or after.”