The Report by Abhishek Purohit
West Indies had the chance to dismiss Ross Taylor for the first time in the series off his fifth ball in Wellington. Kirk Edwards put him down at third slip off Tino Best, though. Taylor would have been gone for a duck, and New Zealand would have been 26 for 3. By the time he finally fell in the 88th over, Taylor had made his tenth Test hundred, gone past 4000 career Test runs and tallied 362 runs for the series. In half-century partnerships each with Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson, Taylor also carried New Zealand to 307 for 6 after they had been put in on a grassy Basin Reserve pitch.
All three of Taylor’s dismissed partners scored briskly without any difficulties, but none of them managed more than 45, all falling against the run of play attempting more strokes. Taylor tightened up after the reprieve. He did not fall behind his partners in run-making but cut out risks till he reached his hundred, unless the ball was too short or too full. West Indies, hampered again by the inconsistency of their fast bowlers, bowled 31 consecutive overs of spin, but Taylor wasn’t to be enticed into a mistake. He slowed down, reached the century in the final over before the second new ball, and cut loose thereafter. West Indies were to drop him again on 122, this time Best himself the culprit at fine leg, before Shane Shillingford dived at deep point to limit the damage from the first drop to 129.
Darren Sammy had chuckled as soon as he won the toss but his fast bowlers could not summon the consistent control required to fully exploit the pace, seam and carry in the wicket. The skies were overcast before the start but sunlight gradually increased till the ground was brightly lit. The wicket did not turn out to be as bowler-friendly as was expected. However, there was sufficient help on offer for the quicks, especially from a fuller length, but West Indies’ favoured length was much shorter.
They did dismiss Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford cheaply, but frittered away the pressure soon, unable to stop the flow of runs. Sammy was guilty of dropping Rutherford in the slips off Shannon Gabriel, but the batsman wasn’t able to make much of the reprieve.
New Zealand were in trouble at 24 for 2, but West Indies soon started tailing into the pads when they tried the fuller lengths and Taylor clipped them through midwicket. Short-and-wide balls also started appearing now and then, and both Taylor and Williamson ensured they were put away.
Williamson, returning after recovering from his thumb injury, looked solid from the start, playing late and swaying inside the line of bouncers early. Best let it slip further after the Taylor drop, digging it short and wide and was cut over the third-man boundary for six by Williamson.
Williamson came out still more positive after lunch, driving, cutting and pulling boundaries. But in trying to force a back-foot punch off Best, he edged one on 45 and this time, Sammy held on at second slip. Although the stand was worth 88, New Zealand were still only 112.
McCullum’s arrival ensured the runs kept coming. McCullum scored in his usual busy manner, refusing to keep his cuts and pulls down but also hitting the gaps, even if he hit the odd stroke perilously close to a fielder. With Taylor in complete control at the other end, West Indies weren’t able to stop the batsmen from frequently turning the strike over. By tea, the stand had progressed to 74, but McCullum was to go soon after the break, stabbing Narsingh Deonarine to midwicket.
Corey Anderson arrived to take on the spinners with powerful cuts, sweeps and lofted hits down the ground. He had motored to 38 when he under-edged a sweep onto pad and there on to silly point off Shillingford, just before the second new ball arrived.
Taylor, who’d nudged his way around against the spinners, drove Best ‘s first delivery with the new ball straight past the bowler for four. BJ Watling batted safely for stumps at the other end, and New Zealand would have ended even stronger had a tired Taylor not thrown his bat at everything.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.