Collapse puts NZ on top

A dramatic collapse by the West Indies after they seemed to be cruising towards their target of 291 means that New Zealand now needs just 2 wickets to take what has been an exciting first test at Eden Park. West Indies aren’t out of it though either, needing 45 runs, but with Ian Bradshaw and Jerome Taylor at the crease and only Fidel Edwards to come they are on the back foot.

But the same could be said for New Zealand, who soon after a delayed start due to rain found themselves bowling to an opening partnership worth more than a hundred runs. Resuming with the score on 48-0, Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga played beautifully in the first two hours of play, Ganga playing patiently and safely while Gayle played several of the flamboyant shots we have come to expect from him. Although lucky at times, particularly against Shane Bond, they added 100 to their overnight score before the introduction to the attack of Nathan Astle brought the breakthrough. Gayle, on 82, edged the ball through the slips where it was taken by Stephen Fleming. Fleming had earlier dropped a tough catch in close off Daniel Vettori, so was obviously relieved to not make the same mistake on this occasion.

From there it went sharply downhill in the second and final session for the West Indies, with Ramnaresh Sarwan retiring hurt after ducking into a sharp bouncer from Bond and being forced to retire hurt on 4, followed by the biggest of the big wickets. Bond clipped the top of Brian Lara’s leg stump, the great batsman out for a first-ball duck. And then, although Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin all looked promising, or threatening from a New Zealand perspective, the wickets came far too regularly for the visitors. Apart from the openers, who both got half centuries, no one reached 20.

Bond was superb throughout the day. He had no luck early in the day, beating the bat on countless occasions, but in the second session he was quick, accurate, and very successful. He finished with four wickets for 66 from a remarkable 23 overs, 19 of which were bowled today. Vettori too bowled well, beating Chanderpaul in flight and consistently tempting Ramdin into playing the sweep shot before the wicketkeeper-batsman fell into the trap set for him, James Franklin taking the catch on the boundary. And Nathan Astle, who played no part in the second day of the test due to a headache after a blow to the head on the first day, showed that he was back to full health with an excellent spell of ten overs for 2-13, with the wickets of Gayle and also Ganga for 95, caught by Jamie How.

Although Fleming could perhaps have managed to squeeze a few more overs out of the umpires in fading light, it seemed that a tiring Shane Bond had to be included in his consideration, and he eventually went off the field without complaint.

New Zealand resume tomorrow as warm favourites, needing just two wickets to finish off the match, but it must be remembered that at the tea break today the West Indies were considered almost certain to win the match. It has been a match of rapidly shifting momentum, and it is far from impossible that the West Indies will manage to get those last 45 runs they need to score a rare test win on foreign soil.

It won’t be a long period of play tomorrow, but it should be very exciting.

New Zealand 275 & 272

West Indies 257 & 246-8
Daren Ganga 95, Chris Gayle 82
Shane Bond 4-66, Nathan Astle 2-13

West Indies need 45 runs to win.

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