Kiwis build lead after Windies collapse

New Zealand

New Zealand began their second innings late in the evening session of the third day at Sabina Park and lead by 260 with eight wickets in hand at stumps.

New Zealand began their second innings late in the evening session of the third day at Sabina Park and lead by 260 with eight wickets in hand at stumps.

The match is poised for a fascinating last two days as the visitors secured a big first innings lead after a solid performance in the field saw the West Indies self destruct and the home side faces an uphill battle to fight for a draw.

Time and time again we see Test matches that appear to be headed for dead draws before a sudden collapse turns the game on its head. There hasn't been a draw at Sabina Park for 16 years but when the West Indies crawled to 60 without loss late in the morning of day three after New Zealand declared on 508 for 7, it looked very hard to see how a result might be possible.

The Calypso side has a bad reputation for Collapso and that's what happened as debutant off-spinner Mark Craig (4/91) – a surprise selection considering he averages 50 with the ball in First Class cricket – took three wickets for one run to inspire hope in the visitors cause.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul (84 not out) then strode to the crease to play his usual role of being the lone pillar in a house of cards but his effort in the Windies' plight, as is so often the case, was not enough to take his side to a mediocre score, making 84 not out.

Chanderpaul is two months shy of his 40th birthday and averages 52 in 153 Tests. He is ranked number three in the world and is the only batsman in the top 20 does not play for one of the top-seven ranked Test sides.

Chris Gayle (64) batted well at his home ground in the first innings of his 100th Test before he nicked off to Tim Southee (4/19) who bowled with aggression and accuracy and managed to get the ball to reverse swing, which the home side had failed to do.

'Keeper Dinesh Ramdin (39) kept Chanderpaul company before another collapse, of three wickets for 18 runs, left Chanderpaul stranded with the tail. An exciting little tail-wag gave some entertainment to the small crowd and took WI up to 262 all out – a first innings deficit of 246 runs.

That the middle order of Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels were all dismissed for ducks on a good batting wicket is inexcusable for a Test side. The side has not played a Test match this year and the only side they have beaten over the last year and 10 months is Zimbabwe.

Disorganisation at the West Indies Cricket Board never helps the side either. A squabble that deemed the Guyana board to be illegally constituted has seen the third match of this series moved from Guyana to Barbados.

More importantly, the decision to not allow star spinner Sunil Narine to take part in the series because of the spinners decision to stay in India for the IPL and be two days late for a training camp.

Had Narine been allowed to play on this surface that has taken spin from the first day then it is highly unlikely that the Black Caps would have found their time at the crease so comfortable in the first innings. Once again the WICB has shot itself in the foot.

It is ironic that Sulieman Benn, who was selected to take what should have been Narine's place in the side, complained at the press conference after play on day two that the pitch was too benign and offered nothing for the bowlers.

Mark Craig seemed to manage to get a fair amount out of it. And I'm told by a New Zealand correspondent that the only reason he was picked is because he is the only off-spinner in New Zealand who could make the trip (Jeetan Patel was not available for selection as he chose instead to honour his county contract at Warwickshire).

New Zealand will look to bat till nearly tea tomorrow and give themselves 120 overs to take ten wickets before the West Indies can reach an improbable target of close on 500 runs. Brendon McCullum's decision not to enforce the follow-on would likely have been influenced by the result of the last series where these two sides met.

In the first Test in Dunedin in December 2013 McCullum did enforce the follow-on and a double hundred from Darren Bravo saw the Trinidadian's side score over 500 in the second innings and save an exciting match.

With that game fresh in his mind it is very unlikely that McCullum will declare aggressively, especially as this is the first Test of a series. Chris Gayle and co are dangerous and the pitch is holding together well, despite the hot sun and high winds that would result in most decks cracking and crumbling.

That is of course provided the visitors are not bowled out cheaply themselves – in that event all three results become alive.

<b>Nick Sadleir</b>

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