Cricket: Outgoing Wright has plenty to think about

New Zealand cricket coach John Wrigh is leaving soon. Photo / NZPA
New Zealand cricket coach John Wrigh is leaving soon. Photo / NZPA

New Zealand's warm-up match with the West Indies Cricket Board President's XI threw up more problems than it provided solutions for outgoing national coach John Wright.

The three-day tour match wrapped up this morning at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with New Zealand scrapping their way to a draw after narrowly avoiding an embarrassing defeat.

Their batting struggled and only three bowlers took wickets. Wright now has a couple of selection dilemmas to mull over in the next day or so, as he decides on his playing XI for the first test that will get underway at the same Antigua ground on Thursday. (NZT)

The two-test series will be Wright's final assignment with New Zealand before he is replaced by Mike Hesson.

First and foremost on Wright's mind will be how to get runs out of his top order after they were bowled out for 149 in their first innings against the WICB President's XI and mustered only 181-8 in their second dig.

Granted, the pitch provided its own challenges, but the home side still managed 326 in their first innings.

The dual failures of Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Dean Brownlie and Daniel Flynn will be a major disappointment to Wright, and only BJ Watling, who missed the game with a quad strain, serves as a potential replacement.

None of those four are likely to be dropped for the first test though, while Kruger van Wyk should keep Watling out of the side after the little wicketkeeper chipped in with scores of 34 and 38 not out. His work behind the stumps was also solid.

Daniel Vettori claimed 6-48 as New Zealand wrapped up the West Indies' innings this morning, which showed the champion spinner wasn't suffering from ring rust despite not having played since the IPL finished in early May.

One of the other players to enhance his reputation from the game was paceman Neil Wagner who picked up 3-65 with the ball and also slogged away for 59 minutes today with the bat as he and van Wyk managed to hold off defeat during a dour final session of cricket.

Wagner made his first-class debut at No 6 so he is no mug with the bat, but he said he was pleased with his bowling figures.

"It was pretty tough out there. The conditions weren't easy at all. So I knew I had to fight hard and obviously I want to show that I'm pretty keen to hopefully get a crack on this tour and I know that opportunity is not going to come around every time," he said.

"So this was a perfect opportunity to just try and fight hard and that's what test cricket is about so hopefully I'll get an opportunity in the future to try and do that."

The South African-born Wagner, who was cleared this year to represent New Zealand, is all but guaranteed to make his test debut on Thursday, but the make-up of the bowling unit remains up in the air.

Leg-spinner Tarun Nethula was underwhelming as he wheeled down 20 overs for figures of 1-101, which won't aid his claim to be included as a second spinner behind Vettori.

Veteran seamer Chris Martin went wicketless from his 21 overs but the 37-year-old would have just been grateful to get on the field for a gallop considering his last match was in March, and he will likely take the new ball in the first test.

Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and Tim Southee all missed the tour match alongside Watling and could come into consideration, particularly Southee and Bracewell, with Nethula potentially missing out, leaving Guptill or Williamson to fill in a few overs of spin.

- APNZ

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