Cricket: Work-ons top priority for NZ

By David Leggat

Shane Shillingford drives the ball for four runs at University Oval yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Shillingford drives the ball for four runs at University Oval yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

This is getting to be a bad habit; for the third time this year New Zealand, having bossed the bulk of a test match, were unable to close out the win at University Oval yesterday.

At Eden Park in March, they could not take the one wicket needed to topple England, courtesy of Matt Prior and Monty Panesar hanging on.

At Lord's in May, chasing a highly gettable 239, they were rolled for 68 in 22.3 overs; yesterday, needing 112 to take the lead in the three-match series against the West Indies, they were 79 for four when the rain arrived just before tea. At that point they had 33 overs to get 33 runs.

The rain settled in, a decision was made to take the covers off at 6.10pm, with the chance of a 6.41pm start. However, the sodden covers couldn't be lifted off by the tractor and in any case umpires Paul Reiffel and Nigel Llong decided to call it off.

New Zealand have now gone 10 tests without a win, since Colombo last November.

Brendon McCullum, who took charge after that test, could be forgiven for seeking a high cliff after this match which New Zealand dominated for the first three and a half days but couldn't finish off.

Even when they had the winning of it yesterday, the batsmen got the jitters. Four fell in rapid time to offspinner Shane Shillingford. Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson hunkered down to steady things but then got bogged down themselves.

The West Indies will take considerable heart from the outcome. They were all out of sorts through the first two innings, with bat and ball.

However, as the pitch steadily died, they found their feet, courtesy of Darren Bravo's outstanding double century - his 218 the sixth highest score by a batsman for a team following on - and captain Darren Sammy's gallantry in making 80 over more than three hours while reduced to a limp by a buttock strain.

Their 507 is the fourth highest second innings total by the West Indies.

While the New Zealanders may be tempted to have shed their own tears as the rain drowned out the final session, they'll know they have what, in tedious rugby terminology, have come to be known as work-ons ahead of the second test, which starts at the Basin Reserve on Wednesday.

For a start, four catches were spilled in the West Indies second innings. There were two return catches to seamers Tim Southee (hard and low) and Neil Wagner (straight back and very catchable), one slapped straight at McCullum at short mid-off and another over tall Peter Fulton's head at deep mid-on which he got his fingers to.

Wagner's was the most significant, when Bravo was on 82 (on 44, he survived a DRS referral when the ball touched the wrist part of a glove but third umpire Ian Gould sided with the batsman).

After the fourth day's play Bravo remarked that "the bounce is probably a bit up and down at the moment". Sure enough, he was undone by a ball from Trent Boult which kept very low.

Bravo had to be levered off the ground, such was his disappointment. Still - small consolation - he has made the second highest score by a West Indian against New Zealand, behind only Seymour Nurse's 258 at Christchurch 44 years ago.

The bounce kept batsmen cautious but New Zealand handled their target chase poorly, another aspect which should be addressed.

Fulton went to a legside touch on a third umpire decision on lunch. Aaron Redmond glanced hard to leg slip where Narsingh Deonarine snared a sharp catch; Hamish Rutherford, for the second time in the game, lofted to be caught at long on; while McCullum top-edged an attempted sweep.

It was as if, having not won in so long, they'd lost the knowledge of how to get across the finish line.

Shillingford bowled tidily and reaped a four-wicket return but, for the Black Caps, a combination of not having finished the West Indies second innings earlier, the dropped catches and jittery batting did for them.

The West Indies will be better for this outcome. They had a messy preparation for Dunedin; now they've got five days under their belt. New Zealand won't fear their bowling but will recognise they have more batting talent than might have been suspected.

Work-ons all round then over the next three days.

• West Indian batsman Kraigg Brathwaite will join the touring group as Chris Gayle's replacement in Wellington tomorrow, having had his departure from the Caribbean delayed by visa issues.

- Herald on Sunday

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