Match Still Evenly Poised

After three days of very even competition, neither New Zealand nor the West Indies holds a clear advantage at the end of the third day of the first test in Auckland. However, West Indies, having been set 291 to win, have made a positive start finishing at 48-0. For setting a target of 291 New Zealand have mainly just one batsman to thank, Brendon McCullum. As a lot of the rest of the batsmen fell for disappointing scores, McCullum mixed patience and aggression in his 74, sharing in big partnerships with Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond, the latter being a record tenth wicket partnership for New Zealand against the West Indies of 62.

New Zealand resumed at 98-4, and after a positive start by Stephen Fleming the West Indies took the crucial wicket of the New Zealand captain, lbw to Ian Bradshaw for 33. And again, just like in the first innings, most of the New Zealand middle to lower order made a start but failed to go on and reach a good score. Following on from Jamie How and Peter Fulton last night, nightwatchman James Franklin and Nathan Astle looked promising in reaching 20 and 13 respectively, and Daniel Vettori worked his way through to 33 in a 64-run partnership with McCullum. Astle however can’t be blamed for his dismissal, as first a poor call by McCullum and then a brilliant direct hit by Daren Ganga brought an end to his innings.

McCullum started uncharacteristically slowly, moving cautiously through the early part of his innings before the boundaries we have come to expect started to come more regularly. His 74 included seven fours and a six before he was caught at slip by Dwayne Bravo off the bowling of Chris Gayle. Gayle finished with four wickets, the fourth being Chris Martin for a two-ball nought, finishing with 4-71 from 30 overs. Ian Bradshaw again impressed on debut, following up his first innings 3-73 with similar figures of 3-83 in the second.

When Astle fell the score was 146-7, the lead just over 160, so the innings of McCullum and partnerships with Vettori and Bond were absolutely vital in setting a competitive and defendable total, a score that meant the West Indies batting last would need to score the highest score of the match to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Gayle and Ganga again started brightly, following up their 47-run opening stand in the first innings with an unbeaten 48 in the final session of the day, Gayle playing some spectacular shots in his 28 and Ganga contributing 20. Bond, who was brilliant, threatening and almost unplayable at times in the afternoon session on the first day, was much less so today. In his four overs he was hit for 20 runs, while Franklin and Martin, who were more expensive in the first innings, each bowled four tidy overs for 10 and 13 respectively. Daniel Vettori, who conceded just seven runs for two wickets in seven first innings overs, was again extremely tidy, conceding five in his five overs, including four maidens.

The match will be decided either way tomorrow, and although West Indies perhaps have a slight advantage, the match could very easily be won by either side. For New Zealand, an early breakthrough is crucial and the wicket of Brian Lara even more so. The West Indies will want to have some solid partnerships, and preferably not rely too heavily on their star to get them through to the target tomorrow.

The first session may well decide which way the first test will go.

New Zealand 275 & 272
Brendon McCullum 74, Jamie How 37
Chris Gayle 4-71, Ian Bradshaw 3-83

West Indies 257 & 48-0
Chris Gayle 28 no, Daren Ganga 20 no
Daniel Vettori 0-5, James Franklin 0-10

West Indies require 243 runs to win.

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