Cricket: Field marshal Watling in command

By David Leggat in Wellington

BJ Watling played some bold and aggressive strokes as he held the New Zealand tail together. Photo / Getty Images
BJ Watling played some bold and aggressive strokes as he held the New Zealand tail together. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand took charge of the second cricket test in a strong final session at the Basin Reserve, but the platform was laid much earlier in the day.

And in that respect, a small salute is due to the increasingly influential BJ Watling.

The West Indies will start the third day on 158 for four, trailing New Zealand by 283, having had to cope with a swinging ball far better controlled than it was when they had the chance to use it on the opening day in Wellington.

To twist the old line, this was a day of two games.

Twenty-seven overs were lost in the middle thanks to light drizzle. Before that the New Zealand tail wagged energetically against some, frankly, dumb bowling; then in the final stanza the New Zealand seamers did their bit in still helpful conditions.

The bowlers were given the opportunity to attack by an impressive piece of assertive batting by a lower order once more well marshalled by wicketkeeper Watling.

He oversaw 134 runs in 25.1 overs in the first session. Watling put on 49 with the increasingly competent No9 Ish Sodhi, and 58 off 51 balls for the last wicket - a record against the West Indies - with Trent Boult.

Watling scurried, cut decisively and worked the ball efficiently about the park. His 65, last man out, took him to 279 runs at an average of 69 since the first test in Bangladesh in October.

"I think he's just a smart cricketer," Corey Anderson said last night of his Northern Districts teammate's ability to take charge of the lower order.

"He takes that responsibility on and he's sort of the sheriff of that lower order. Guys almost bat around him and if we can do that on a regular basis then obviously it's quite handy for us."

Watling has form for this. With Boult, he shared a 127-run stand for the 10th wicket against Bangladesh in Chittagong in October. On that occasion, 187 runs were compiled while he was at the wicket for the last four wickets, en route to 103.

Boult demonstrated again that he has a good eye, clobbering Shane Shillingford for 14 in three balls, and survived a drop on the square leg fence by Tino Best - his second and equally hapless effort of the innings - with coach Ottis Gibson standing right behind.

Gibson wasn't exactly bent over double at what he saw either.

Best finished with, er, the best figures but this is a good example where the reading of the numbers in a few years' time will offer a misleading impression.

Boult and Tim Southee found swing and seam movement.

There were lbw appeals rejected, rightly it should be added, but close all the same.

Both Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards showed they possess handsome drives but New Zealand found that by persevering the chances would come.

Lefthander Powell went lbw to Southee, in his first over after a change of ends; first test double centurymaker Darren Bravo pushed defensively at lively left-armer Corey Anderson's fifth ball to be caught at second slip.

After Edwards completed his second consecutive half-century of the series, he fell to an odd shot, a leading edge being caught at cover, before the big wicket of Shiv Chanderpaul.

For a player who has carved a career out of patience, caution and concentration, he uncharacteristically drove out at a ball from Boult to be caught at short point by a diving Anderson.

All the while runs came at a decent clip - Marlon Samuels completing his 20th half-century in the day's final over off 57 balls - and so the game is moving along at a good speed.

New Zealand have the advantage, but by no stretch is it decisive.

"Obviously they've scored a few more runs than we would have liked," allrounder Anderson said.

"If we take a couple of poles [wickets] in the morning, then we'll be sitting in a good position."

He reckoned the pitch is still helping, provided bowlers put the ball in the right areas, something one side has done better than the other over the first two days.

"I think we gave away too many four balls today," he added. "If you hang it in the right spots, then you're going to get rewarded."

- NZ Herald

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