Cricket: Martin points at first hour being paramount

By Kris Shannon

Chris Martin thinks the first hour of tomorrow's first test against the West Indies could shape the entire series. Photo / Getty Images.
Chris Martin thinks the first hour of tomorrow's first test against the West Indies could shape the entire series. Photo / Getty Images.

It may seem incongruous in the longest form of cricket, but Chris Martin thinks the first hour of tomorrow's first test against the West Indies could shape the entire series.

New Zealand return to the test arena in Antigua early tomorrow morning (NZT), their first action in whites since the 1-0 series defeat to South Africa in March.

They are facing the only nation not named Bangladesh below them on the world test rankings but, make no mistake, the home side are clear favourites to resume their recent dominance of the tourists.

After winning just once in seven limited-overs matches on the Caribbean tour, the Black Caps are well aware of the threat posed by the West Indies in their own environs.

The also know momentum is firmly fastened to the hosts and, if they have any chance of emerging from the two-test series with a victory, they cannot let that continue.

Which is why Martin believes the first 10 to 15 overs of play could prove pivotal in New Zealand's quest for their first series triumph over a major test playing nation since seeing off the same opposition at home in 2006.

"I think [the West Indies] are actually quite a confident outfit at the moment, and I suppose how we start in that first hour against them is probably going to define the series in a lot of ways," he said.

"The opportunity here for us, on a pitch that's definitely going to have a result in it, is massive. It's just a matter of us getting our game together, playing as a team and attacking pretty hard on that first day."

Martin felt the two sides were evenly matched, a sentiment supported by their respective recent records. It doesn't make for particularly pretty reading for either side, with the teams combining for six test wins in their last 15 matches each.

New Zealand's win over Australia last year was the only one of those six to come against a major test playing nation, which positions this series as a case of the bottom-feeding nations scrapping for rare success.

"As far as the line-ups go, they're pretty similar," Martin said. "And if you look at the numbers across the board, it's going to be a very competitive test series. So, for us, it's going to be a lot more about our attitudes and playing together as a team to combat these guys in their home conditions."

Much has been made of the Black Caps' struggles so far in those conditions, but the opportunity to play a warm-up game on the same wicket block to be used for the test at Sir Viv Richards Stadium could have only aided the Kiwis' acclimatisation.

After leading the New Zealand attack in that match and preparing to do the same in the test, Martin was grateful for the chance to glean a few pointers.

"I think the warm-up game showed us that, if we're in the right areas long enough, the up-and-down nature of the pitch is probably going to get us results.

"If you make a guy go out of his game plan by being disciplined and hard-working, I think you've got a chance with the variable nature of the pitch."

That pitch and its propensity to deteriorate as the match wears on also makes the toss an important one to win, Martin said.

"If a guy decided to camp and bat for as long as he can, it's obviously a little bit more difficult for the pace bowlers to remove him. But, as the game goes on, the pitch is probably going to create a little bit of havoc."

- APNZ

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