New Zealand nearing second Test defeat

New Zealand

Only rain or an extraordinarily big ninth or tenth wicket partnership can save New Zealand from a thumping defeat at the Queen's Park Oval.

Only rain or an extraordinarily big ninth or tenth wicket partnership can save New Zealand from a thumping defeat at the Queen's Park Oval.

The visitors are 17 runs ahead but have only two wickets in hand at the made stumps on day four at 225 for eight. There is a chance of rain on Friday but one would expect that the home side will knock up the winning runs before lunch.

A defiant and unbeaten ninth wicket partnership between a dogged BJ Watling (38 from 150 balls) and Mark Craig (29 from 102 balls) has meant that New Zealand are hanging onto keeping their chances alive by the skin of their teeth.

Cricket is a funny game but this game should end in an emphatic and exact reversal of the story in Jamaica last week. Whilst the world was glued to the football World Cup and, for an hour, to the high drama at Lord's, Trinidad was treated to a delightful performance from the West Indies. This largely ignored series is a tense one and it is highly likely the score will be level at one match all with the decider to be played in Barbados.

It has been an all-round team bowling effort that restricted New Zealand in their second innings. Each of the four specialist bowlers Kemar Roach (three for 53), Jerome Taylor (two for 46), Sulieman Benn (two for 62) and Shannon Gabriel each contributed in the scalp taking.

New Zealand started the day on 73 for one, 166 runs behind, and it was obvious that they needed to bat big or do a rain-dance, or both. They started resolutely as Tom Latham (36) and Kane Wiliamson (52) blocked out the first hour of the day but when Latham defended a ball from Benn that spat up and was snaffled, the march to victory was set in motion.

Three wickets fell in the second hour before lunch and the highlight of them all was a most magnificent caught and bowled from Benn, who dived like the Mexican goalkeeper Ochoa to catch a ball that flew off the bat of Neesham, who had come down the pitch to a flighted delivery.

No other partnership before the ninth went beyond 30 or so as the attack kept chipping away at the batting order and virtually every batsman got half a start before succumbing to the pressure before he could convert it to a significant score.

The West Indies selectors showed faith in youth as they made three changes for this Test and each of the newcomers to the side – Gabriel, Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood – played useful roles in the team performance.

The West Indies is a side made up from disparate islands and teamwork levels fluctuate but it must be noted that this was a great team performance. When the 39-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul dived to make a good stop at short cover, virtually the whole team ran over to congratulate him. The Windies ran together with the bit between their teeth – a rare moment of energy in the field from an often lethargic side.

The first Test could not have been more one-sided for New Zealand and the second the other way around – Jamaica was over in under four days and Trinidad nearly followed suit, despite being played on great batting pitches.

Let's hope the decider in Bridgetown is more of a tussle. Sunil Narine is likely to be back in the side after his effective two-Test suspension from his own board and the surface at the Kensington Oval will likely dictate whether he replaces Benn, who has bowled well, or Gabriel, who has had a good Test – a rare selection dilemma for the West Indies.

<b>Nick Sadleir at Queen's Park Oval</b>

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