Cricket: Test of missed opportunities

By David Leggat

For a short time yesterday afternoon, a famous test victory seemed within New Zealand's grasp.

In the end, the target of 312 in 60 overs - 5.2 runs an over - was beyond them. And for that, they can rue their inability to cut short West Indies captain Chris Gayle's man of the match 197 which held up an anticipated charge through the tail of the tourists' second innings just long enough on the final morning at McLean Park.

In the end, a draw was the right result. Neither side was able to take a decisive grip on the match which ebbed and flowed throughout a fascinating five days.

New Zealand finished on 220 for five, with Jesse Ryder unbeaten on 59, his second half century of the match, and with nine overs left unbowled.

The morning session was pivotal. Perhaps the critical moment had come just before stumps on the fourth day when Jamie How grassed a regulation slip catch off Fidel Edwards. Then yet to score, he hung around for an invaluable 137 minutes and 86 balls yesterday.

He put on 70 with Gayle which, with a couple of late contributions, was enough to turn a competitive chase into one just that bit stiffer.

"We certainly had high hopes," New Zealand captain Dan Vettori said last night.

"There was a good feel within the group. Losing Jamie [How] just before tea hurt."

How's bracing half century, an invigorating response to a personal run slump, got some momentum into the New Zealand innings, and when Ross Taylor and Ryder were sailing along in a brisk 74-run stand it looked on for a thrilling denouement.

However, the departures of Taylor and Brendon McCullum, both to decisions referred to the TV umpire Mark Benson, had the effect of a punch in the stomach and at 203 for five Vettori called enough.

"There's a lot of gamblers in my room," Vettori quipped.

"I just thought if we lost another wicket then we could have got ourselves in trouble and I didn't want to put all that hard work to waste because we'd come so close. Once it [the target] got to 10 an over it was just too much."

Gayle was the dominant figure in the second half of the test, just as his teammate Shivnarine Chanderpaul had been the tourists' first innings rock.

Gayle added a further 51 yesterday, hammering four boundaries in five Iain O'Brien deliveries and when he despatched James Franklin's first two balls straight after the drinks break for four down the ground and six over the mid-wicket fence, he was giving another kick to New Zealand's hopes.

He finally departed in unusual fashion, edging a ball on to wicketkeeper McCullum's boot for it to bounce up, giving offspinner Jeetan Patel his fourth wicket. When he had Edwards caught at slip he had his first five-wicket haul in a test, and deserved it for his perseverance.

How decided on a bold course of action and produced some rousing shots. He had a life, dropped at mid-on on 18 by Jerome Taylor, but fortune favoured him yesterday and with 19 off one Edwards over, he raced to his first half century for 15 test innings.

Daniel Flynn, Taylor and Ryder all had a positive outlook and for a time the West Indies brains trust were scratching their heads.

The target was 134 in the last 20 overs; 101 in the last 15 before the chase was stopped.

Attention now turns to the first of two Twenty20 internationals at Eden Park on Boxing Day.

The West Indies have made three changes for the one-day part of the tour. Jamaican spinner Nikita Miller and compatriot Shawn Findlay, and aggressive young Trinidad batsman Kieron Pollard have arrived to replace tall spinner Sulieman Benn, Leon Johnson and Kemar Roach.

- NZ Herald

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