Craig leads New Zealand to easy victory

New Zealand

The continued combination of self-destruction by the West-Indies and hard work from a determined New Zealand outfit has handed first blood in this three-Test series to the visitors in Jamaica.

The continued combination of self-destruction by the West-Indies and hard work from a determined New Zealand outfit has handed first blood in this three-Test series to the visitors in Jamaica.

It is true that New Zealand won a good toss to bat first and big and control the match, but credit must be given to the side that comfortably outplayed the other and was rewarded with such a comprehensive 186-run victory.

Brendon McCullum dangled something of a carrot when he declared half an hour before tea on 156/8 with a lead of 402 (a target that translated to a required run rate of only 3 per over) and openers Kieran Powell (0) and Chris Gayle (10) seemed to take the bait as they were each dismissed playing loose shots before the tea break.

The declaration had seemed a little early to most pundits given that there was no rain forecast for day five but McCullum's decision was proved to be inspired as the failed chase was then wrapped up as the home side were bowled out for 216 in under 50 overs.

Kirk Edwards followed them back to the pavilion soon after tea and a match which looked certain to go the full five days was curtailed by another typical West Indies implosion. Tim Southee (2-32) and Mark Craig (4-15) were again the destroyers in chief as they prevented the WIndies from establishing any notable partnerships.

When Darren Bravo (12) and Marlon Samuels (failed to trouble the scorers in both innings) fell to Craig in the same over not much later, then the writing was well and truly on the wall.

The only reliable batsman in the side, Shivnarine Chanderpaul (24) was even unable to put up much resistance as he was marginally judged LBW padding away Indian-born Ish Sodhi (3-42) well outside the line of off stump but not offering a shot.

Earlier New Zealand were the ones who looked as if they might be in trouble as Jerome Taylor (3-28) reduced their second innings effort to 55/5 but their first-innings lead was so great that Tom Latham's 73 was enough to give them another hundred runs and set the hosts over 400 for victory.

It was a match where the West Indies were embarrassed by the opposition not just in batting, bowling and fielding but also in team-work, commitment and attitude.

The scenes were sad ones at Sabina Park, which is normally such a cheerful ground. The magnificent party stand – perhaps the most fun place to watch cricket in the world – has been demolished because of a disagreement between the administrators and the outfit that ran it, and crowds were shamefully poor.

That this Test started on a Sunday and the next one starts on a Monday doesn't help attendances. Eighty percent of boxes were unopened and very few half-bottles of the 63% Wray and Newphew overproof rum were sold in the stands.

It was fun for the crowd that, in the extra half hour that was taken by the umpires to finish the match on the fourth day, numbers 10 and 11 Sulieman Benn (25) and Shane Shillingford (53) put on a tremendous 82 runs from 56 balls for the last wicket but there is something desperate in celebrating winning a tiny battle when you have so badly lost the war. Shillingford's 50 came off 25 balls and was the second fastest in the history of the game.

Such is the nature of people on this wonderful island – they are eternal optimists. When Benn was finally dismissed and the West Indies had lost the match Bob Marley's 'Every little ting, is gonna be alright,' sounded through the stadium public address system.

New Zealand have long punched above their weight, and their record of late is better than just that of a fringe side that puts up a fight. The Black Caps have lost only one series in the last 14 months and one of those series was a win over the mighty India. With the bat they have score 400 in the first innings in five of their last 10 matches and over 350 in two of the other five.

Man-of-the-match Mark Craig's dream debut was Boy's Own Paper stuff and the relatively unknown off-spinner with a very mediocre first class record not only took eight wickets in the match but was also the first ever player in Test match history to hit a six off the first ball he faced.

<b>Nick Sadleir</b>