West Indies had lost 16 wickets on the third day in Wellington to lose by an innings. If one thought their standards couldn’t plummet any further, one was to be proved wrong on the third day in Hamilton. In far friendlier conditions for batting than Basin Reserve, their entire second innings lasted less than a session. It began after tea, and ended so swiftly that New Zealand had time left to face a couple of overs in their second small chase of the series.
It was supposed to be a test by spin for New Zealand, and Sunil Narine did as well he could, bowling 42.3 overs, 36 of them on the trot, to take 6 for 91. Ross Taylor batted through that examination to make his third hundred of the series and cut New Zealand’s first-innings deficit to 18. Both feats, outstanding as they were, were consigned to the sidelines by the depressingly familiar drama that West Indies served up after tea.
Granted New Zealand’s four-man pace attack, three of them left-armers, were relentless with their tight lines and fuller lengths. Granted there was a bit of cloud cover that afforded some swing. Granted New Zealand came back from their sloppy catching in the first innings with some outstanding grabs. But the pitch was still the same slow one on which the sides had scored 367 and 349.
After such scores, it was effectively a second-innings shootout. West Indies shot themselves in the foot instead. It was the same weakness again, an inability to tackle the inswing the left-armers were generating.
Their left-handers kept poking at deliveries leaving them, even Shivnarine Chanderpaul falling prey to the malaise, and New Zealand kept snapping up sharp catches in the slip cordon, the highlight being Kane Williamson’s one-handed blinder at gully to send back Chanderpaul for 20 off Neil Wagner. The right-handers drove loosely at inswingers, they prodded at ones going straight across them, they even managed to get strangled down the leg side.
The longest anyone lasted was Marlon Samuels, who made 8 off 38 deliveries. The most runs anyone made was captain Darren Sammy, who struck six fours in a hopelessly frenetic 24 off 17 to nudge West Indies into three figures.
Like in Wellington, Trent Boult did most of the damage, removing the top three within nine overs on his way to 4 for 23. Wagner and Corey Anderson, a terrific second pair of seamers, kept up the pressure to prise out three more, and Boult returned to trap first-innings centurion Denesh Ramdin in front.
Having watched the left-armers take the first seven wickets, Tim Southee helped himself to the final three in one over with his outswingers, also reaching 100 Test victims in the process. West Indies had been blown away for 103 in 31.5 overs, 12 leg-byes helping them scrape past 100.
Before tea, Taylor finished with 28 more than 11 West Indies batsmen and the leg-byes put together to pilot New Zealand past 300. Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson gave it away in the morning, aggression causing their downfall, while Taylor ticked along solidly and calmly, at his own pace, never in doubt.
West Indies weren’t able to exert pressure to the extent they had on the second evening, when their specialist spinners Narine and Veerasammy Permaul bowled in tandem. Instead, Darren Sammy gave himself a spell of nine overs at the start, bowling alongside Narine as West Indies worked with the old ball throughout the session. Whatever pressure Narine exerted wasn’t maintained for long enough.
Taylor carried on from the second evening, unruffled by the odd delivery misbehaving or by what was happening at the other end. Even as Narine jagged the odd straighter one past the bat, Taylor handled the offbreaks superbly, playing late and softly. West Indies took the second new ball in the 99th over, immediately after lunch, and the change earned them the wickets of BJ Watling and Taylor, who departed after taking 20 runs off Sammy in the 105th over.
Wagner and Southee cut the deficit further but the tail could not survive too long against Narine, and he spun out the last three to go to 18 wickets from three Tests against New Zealand. The one over he bowled in the evening signalled that the target of 122 wouldn’t be chased down easily.
West Indies had stopped New Zealand short of chasing 112 in Dunedin, but that was on the final day with assistance from rain. Narine is now their only hope, however slender, with two days left. For if you can’t bat, you can at least hope.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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