West Indies vs New Zealand - 1st Test Retrospect
Scripted For Youth
13 Mar 2006
By: Liam Camps
It was the closest that the West Indies has come to a meaningful Test victory away from home in seeming ages. Even so, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul failed to score 30 runs between them in a combined 4 innings. For all his class and greatness, Lara only managed to bathe himself in the glory of 5 runs, bowled legstump for a golden duck in the second innings.
No, it was not a game for Brian Charles Lara to stamp his authority with another match-winning hundred, nor the moment for Chanderpaul to finally take his personal struggles by the scruff of the neck and command some respect as a batsman whilst holding the West Indies captaincy. No, this time it was the game of the young guard. It was their turn to win it for the team.
This was the moment for one of the young men to step up and score an unbeaten ton, or for a solid partnership to emerge from these, the future of West Indies cricket. Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle may have come close, but it was predictably not to be. Not on this day would the West Indies begin to reverse their woeful overseas results.
Though they unquestionably played well enough in the match to reverse the form typical of one of the worst travelling teams outside of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, for the fans back at home it was yet another failure to launch.
Three and a half days of hard work, and it all slipped away in a session of Kiwi delight. The West Indies had built such a strong platform toward victory that it seemed almost unbelievable and though Gayle and Ganga really did add 148 for the first wicket, the reality of West Indies cricket set in after to devastating effect. This team, no less away from home, is not quite sure how to win a Test match.
The bowling was weakened and still effective enough. The team spirit, clearest when Bradshaw caught Styris in the deep, was evident for the most part. The West Indies looked to be enjoying cricket once more. If not a turn around in results, this match was a turn around in attitude.
Not until Fidel Edwards walked out to replace Ian Bradshaw on the final morning did hope of a miracle truly disappear. After all, Bradshaw had done it before, but should never have been asked to do it again. Not even Denesh Ramdin, the promising talent that his is, should have been given the opportunity to gift his wicket away in a daft and senseless manner becoming of a far lesser player.
The script suggested that the West Indies would finally win this one, and they would do so without the help of Lara and Chanderpaul. It is a win that could have defined West Indies cricket heading into the future, for the pure fuel of youth behind it. Instead it simply reaffirmed the characteristics of the regional sport that have ensured a failure to win a major series abroad since 1995.
Gayle and Ganga prospered and frustrated the New Zealanders to no end. It seemed there was no light or luck for Stephen Fleming's industrious side. The West Indies had worked themselves into a position where the option of losing seemed to be have been eliminated from the tussle.
Evidently likened to playing above oneself, playing to potential has never been the strong point of this West Indian side. The shock of being in control of a Test match overwhelmed a team of losers.
Ramdin, Bravo, and now Ian Bradshaw have never participated in a winning West Indies Test team. Chanderpaul has led the West Indies to one win in 13 attempts. It was as brilliant a screenplay as any the West Indies has received in recent times, but the performance attached to it, though improved, proved substandard in the final scene.
They said the West Indies could not take 20 wickets and certainly not cheaply enough to challenge New Zealand. The West Indies entered the Test match with three specialist bowlers and Jerome Taylor took one wicket before breaking down on the first day.
Rather than fall away and concede a massive total, the visitors procured 19 wickets with just two specialist bowlers at their disposal. New Zealand fail to pass 300 in either innings, though with more potent bowling options at his disposal and more thoughtful captaincy, Chanderpaul may have limited them to less than 250 each time around.
A defeat of this nature may break the encouraging West Indian spirit shown in the build-up to it, proving the first step toward another clinical whitewash. With the glass half full, though, it could well be the springboard to a competitive series. Indeed, if it were almost any other team than the West Indies, the latter would be the certain expectation. Nothing is certain in West Indies cricket, aside from uncertainty itself.
If they are to take a victory from this series, the first Test did nothing if not show that it will be the youth contingent to inspire it.
This is not the battle for the Laras and Chanderpauls. This is about the lesser experienced players growing and learning the scent and taste of victory. When the West Indies return to action at Wellington on Friday, the page will be blank again. The script is there to be written once more.
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