July 26, 2012
If the ODIs and T20s were any indication, the Test series between New Zealand and West Indies was expected to be a clean sweep in the favor of the hosts. It might be early days, but at the end of Day 1 of the first Test, the Kiwis have done their reputation as fighters no harm. After electing to bat on a pitch which will surely support spin later in the match, the visitors got to a solid, yet precariously placed 232/4 at the end of Day 1.
There were a few surprises from both teams at the toss: West Indies chose to pick 3 seamers and a lone spinner in Sunil Narine on a dry Antigua wicket and Tino Best was left out in favor of Ravi Rampaul. For New Zealand, all-rounder Neil Wagner debuted.
After a characteristic slow start, the New Zealand openers Daniel Flynn and Martin Guptill played a few eye-catching strokes. They were aided by some wayward bowling from skipper Darren Sammy who came in as the first change bowler. The run-scoring was not impeded by the arrival of Narine to the bowling crease and the openers returned back to the pavilion at Lunch with the score on 71/0.
After lunch, Sammy persisted with the uncanny off-spinner. Flynn, who had carted 7 boundaries in his 45, became Narine’s first Test victim after he cut a short delivery to point. The relief on Narine’s face was palpable given the burden of expectations riding on him. At the other end, Guptill carried on in stylish fashion, unleashing the high elbow drives at regular intervals. He got to his 9th Test fifty and put on a 36 run stand with Brendon McCullum for the second wicket. He survived a close call for LBW against Ravi Rampaul in the final session of the day, when a yorker hit him flush on the toes. Replays indicated that he was hit in line, but the pitch-map incorrectly showed that he was hit partly outside off, resulting in loss of a review for the hosts.
After McCullum fell for 25, Guptill and skipper Taylor plodded along slowly to build a 90 run stand. Despite scoring at a snail’s pace, New Zealand had lost just 2 wickets and one of the openers was looking set for a big ton. Towards the end of day’s play, Narine struck twice; first up Taylor’s timber was disturbed and in his next over, Guptill, on 97, had a brain-fade and miscued a heave into Deonarine’s hands at midwicket. Those two wickets tilted the advantage towards the West Indies, but with Williamson, Wagner and Vettori to bat, New Zealand will not settle for anything less than 400.