Cricket: Batting the major problem for NZ

By Daniel Richardson

Martin Guptill has passed 50 13 times in 24 tests but has turned only two of those half centuries into hundreds. Photo / AP.
Martin Guptill has passed 50 13 times in 24 tests but has turned only two of those half centuries into hundreds. Photo / AP.

Regardless of the result of New Zealand's second cricket test against the West Indies that is likely to finish on day four tomorrow morning, incoming coach Mike Hesson has a problem on his hands and it's to do with wielding the willow.

New Zealand's batting in the two-test series with the West Indies failed to produce an individual century, which is part of a worrying trend for Hesson.

Outgoing coach John Wright scored 12 test tons in 82 appearances during his time wearing the whites and you have to wonder what he would have given to have had two or three batsmen in his side with that sort of record under his control, particularly in the top five.

The recent numbers aren't pretty for the Black Caps and Hesson will have a tough job to turn it around before their next assignment when they meet India in the sub-continent in a two-test affair that begins on August 23.

In New Zealand's last four test series, including the one against the West Indies, they've scored only three centuries across eight tests and, you guessed it, two of those hundreds came in January against Zimbabwe at McLean Park - one of the most generous pitches in international cricket.

Ross Taylor smashed 122 in Napier before he pulled up lame with a calf strain and BJ Watling scored an unbeaten 102.

The other century was an innings of pure class when Kane Williamson saved New Zealand's bacon against South Africa at the Basin Reserve in March as he battled to 102 not out as the Black Caps earned a fighting draw.

The ingredients appear to be there, the best players in the country are being picked and the starts are being made - Martin Guptill has passed 50 13 times in 24 tests but has turned only two of those half centuries into hundreds - the batsmen just need to kick on.

Brendon McCullum hasn't scored a test century in his past 23 innings since late 2010 but has racked up six 50s.

You can trot out every statistic you like on the subject but the cold reality is that to win test matches you need players in your top six to regularly score centuries.

In New Zealand's three-test series against South Africa, which they lost 1-0, the Proteas had five individual scores of three figures or more.

When the West Indies drilled New Zealand by nine wickets in the first test on the tour of the Caribbean a week ago, Windies' openers Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell both notched decent hundreds in the home side's first innings.

Aside from the obvious that it provides runs on the board, it gives your bowlers confidence they have a total they can defend and it galvanises a side to see one of your team-mates raise their bat on completion of a century.

Meanwhile, the West Indies closed day three of the second test today (Sun, NZT) on 135-4 in pursuit of 206 for victory.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand began their second innings on 59-2 but a combination of poor application at the crease and questionable shot selection meant the Kiwis were shot out for 154.

Only Guptill (42) and Dean Brownlie (35) managed to produce a score of note and Tim Southee said the side had let themselves down with the bat.

"Some of the shot selection wasn't great but the West Indies bowled well this morning and they had to get themselves back into the game," Southee said.

- APNZ

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