Cricket: Capital pitch made for seamers

By David Leggat

The green, green grass of Wellington's Basin Reserve hasn't enjoyed this billiard table appearance for years.

New Zealand's Trent Boult enjoys playing at the Basin because 'there's a lot more pace and bounce and it does swing'. Photo / SNPA
New Zealand's Trent Boult enjoys playing at the Basin because 'there's a lot more pace and bounce and it does swing'. Photo / SNPA

Peter Fulton has been around the New Zealand first-class scene for 14 summers, so when he says he's never seen a Basin Reserve pitch as green as that being prepared for the second test starting tomorrow, you listen.

Certainly some of the billiard table look may be toned down by the time of the toss, but the signs are strong that the seamers will be smiling, for at least the first day, if not more.

"Even in first-class cricket when you arrive there's normally a bit more grass on, but I've never seen it looking that green," the veteran Canterbury opener said yesterday.

"It'll be interesting to see if it does as much as what it looks like it'll do.

"It's a little bit hard to pick it out from the rest of the block, so I'm sure the bowlers will be happy."

Groundsman Brett Sipthorpe said this was the first year he hadn't had a phone call from New Zealand team management with a specific pitch request.

"So it's a case of just go and do what you do," he said. "We're setting it up so it does a little more. That's our plan. But whether or not they utilise it we'll see."

Yesterday West Indies coach Ottis Gibson floated - seriously - the idea of using two spinners, Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine, in the second test.

They figure they've identified a problem area for New Zealand's batsmen. To be fair, that was before he'd seen the colour of the pitch, which almost certainly rubbed out that intriguing prospect.

There is encouraging news for the tourists, with captain Darren Sammy coming through training safely, with his strained buttock muscle improving by the day.

They also have replacement batsman Kraigg Brathwaite in Wellington to give themselves batting options.

But their conundrum is more how to work their bowling resources. For New Zealand, it's straightforward.

Kane Williamson will replace Aaron Redmond at No3, provided there are no hiccups over his recovering fractured thumb. The only issue is whether to stick with the same three seamers, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, after a heavy workload in the first test in Dunedin, or bring in Doug Bracewell.

Boult made it clear he doesn't want to surrender his spot.

"I do enjoy coming here, there's a lot more pace and bounce and it does swing," the 18-test left-armer said.

"There's been a fairly heavy workload in the last few days but the whole bowling group is feeling good.

"Test cricket is extremely strenuous on the body and you've got to be quick to work out a plan and understand what works well for you."

There is set to be an addition to the DRS armoury, with real time snicko poised to be included for the last two tests. New Zealand signed off on its introduction last night, and the West Indies were expected to follow suit.

This gives the third umpire the ability to watch a replay and listen to the sound at the same time in the space of about 30 seconds after the incident, rather than have to wait several minutes for the technology to merge the two.

It is not thought to stem from any dissatisfaction with the umpiring; more a case of being keen to embrace the technological possibilities.

What to expect

* Basin Reserve pitch expected to delight the seam bowlers in the second test.

* New Zealand likely to stick with the same three seamers from the drawn first test.

* West Indies captain Darren Sammy tipped to be fit to play.

- NZ Herald

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