Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Series win distant prospect now

Mark Craig tops the batting averages in the West Indies. Photo / AP
Mark Craig tops the batting averages in the West Indies. Photo / AP

A lack of top-order batting partnerships against the West Indies has been chiefly responsible for reducing New Zealand's chances of winning their first test series in 12 years against a top-eight team.

With the series locked at 1-1, the forecast for the rest of the deciding test in Barbados suggests rain may prevent either side winning.

However, after dominating with the bat in the first innings of the opening test at Kingston where Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham made centuries as part of 508 for seven declared, New Zealand's batsmen have surrendered form. None has reached three figures.

Off spinner Mark Craig leads the averages, mustering 62 heading into today (albeit with two not outs from four innings) followed by BJ Watling's 59.33 (from five innings with two not outs).

Tom Latham (57.60), Williamson (50.40), Neesham (45.40) and Ross Taylor (45.25) have each had their moments but Brendon McCullum, Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton have struggled.

The domino effect from two sub-300 first innings totals in the final two tests means the bowlers have been left without enough runs to attack opposition batsmen. It was notable at Trinidad with specialist spinners Craig and Ish Sodhi, featuring.

The top-five partnerships before the second innings at Kensington Oval amounted to 847 (56 per cent) of the 1509 total runs.

Compare that with the three tests during the home summer when the top-five partnerships made 1069 (67 per cent) of the 1602 runs scored. On a couple of occasions, New Zealand innings were so emphatic the lower-order batsmen weren't used which granted the bowlers further rest.

Bad weather dominated the second day in Barbados and the teams left the field just after lunch. Chris Gayle's 42 and Kraigg Brathwaite's 68 helped the West Indies to 169-2, meaning they trail by 134 runs.

The pitch appeared to hold few batting demons, despite the weather disruption. Craig might have some footmarks to exploit if the weather holds. He had Gayle caught at long-on but didn't threaten to the extent Sulieman Benn did with his five-wicket bag on the opening day.

Responsibility lies with Craig in Sodhi's absence and also with Trent Boult, who had taken only four wickets heading into the final match.

- Herald on Sunday

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