Even Stevens at Eden

Honors are pretty much even after two days of play in the first Test between New Zealand and the West Indies at Eden Park in Auckland.

New Zealand leads by 116 but only have six wickets in hand after another eventful day’s play of Test cricket.

The West Indies came out with a positive mind set to start day two, but had a major set back early. Brian Lara could only manage five runs in his first bat of the series before he paid the price for not having a look at Shane Bond, pulling the first ball he faced off him straight to substitute fielder Carl Cachopa at square leg.

The attitude of Ramnaresh Sarwan didn’t change though as he continued to attack after Lara was out. He and skipper Chanderpaul added 30 brisk runs off just 40 balls for the fifth wicket until James Franklin picked up a lucky wicket, Chanderpaul trying to play one down to fine leg and instead getting a tickle through to the keeper.

Despite the score now being 90/5 Sarwan still continued to attack. Dwayne Bravo joined him at the crease and the two of them batted beautifully up until lunch, putting the bad balls away (and there were plenty of them) and taking the team score up to 160 and ending the first session of day two slightly on top.

The two Windies batsmen came out with similar intent after lunch but could only add another 19 runs between them before Sarwan was out characteristically for 62, hooking a Shane Bond bouncer straight down James Franklin’s throat at long leg.

Sarwan’s wicket proved to be crucial as he and Bravo had looked at ease out in the middle during their 89 run stand and seemed like they were leading the West Indies to a first innings lead.

Dwayne Smith came in and played as only Dwayne Smith can, playing some crunching drives and pulls in-between surviving two or three close calls before finally guiding a Chris Martin delivery straight to BLACKCAPS wicket keeper Brendon McCullum.

He and Bravo added 58 for the seventh wicket, with Bravo looking particularly impressive during his knock of 59. The West Indian pair were looking to take the game away from New Zealand with their fast scoring partnership but once Smith was dismissed with the score at 237, any chance of a big lead had vanished.

Bravo himself was the next man to go, chipping an innocuous Chris Martin ball straight to Shane Bond at mid-on (248/8) and from there New Zealand had little trouble wrapping up the tail.

Daniel Vettori took his first Test wicket in six years on Eden Park as Denesh Ramdin looked to work a well flighted ball into the on-side and instead spooned the easiest of return catches back to Vettori, leaving the Windies nine down and still 23 runs behind.

The last wicket stand of Taylor and Edwards managed five streaky runs before Edwards edged a Vettori ball through to Brendon McCullum who took his fourth catch of the innings as the West Indies finished up with 257, an 18 run first innings deficit.

Tea was taken after the Edwards dismissal and The West Indies would have gone into the dressing rooms disappointed not to take a first innings lead after putting together a couple of useful middle order partnerships only to lose wickets at crucial intervals and let New Zealand gain back the advantage.

On the other hand New Zealand would have been happy with their performance in the field, taking a first innings lead after failing to make 300 themselves would have pleased skipper Stephen Fleming.

After tea the West Indies came out firing, Hamish Marshall was out in the second over of the innings caught in the gully off Ian Bradshaw with the score on 11.

Jamie How and Peter Fulton put on 55 for the second wicket and were coasting until How played a reckless pull shot off Bradshaw, which skied straight up in the air and Ramdin completed a good running catch with the score on 66.

That dismissal proved to be decisive as New Zealand began to collapse. Peter Fulton was the next man back in the hutch, getting an inside edge back onto his stumps from a Fidel Edwards thunderbolt (73/3).

Scott Styris came to the middle at this stage and was struck in the head by a lethal delivery from Edwards, smashed him through point for four the next ball to get off the mark and then words were exchanged between the two of them at the end of that particular over.

Edwards had the last laugh though taking Styris’ wicket the next over. Styris seemed to get caught up in their individual battle as he tried to belt Edwards out of the park when he faced him next and instead picked out Bradshaw down at fine leg, who took an impressive catch, jumping high off the ground to prevent the ball from going for six.

Styris’ dismissal left the BLACKCAPS in a precarious situation. They had just lost 3 wickets in nine overs and the West Indies were threatening to take the lead in the overall match as a result.

Stephen Fleming and night-watchman James Franklin managed to see out the final five overs of the day without further damage, much to the relief of the New Zealand camp but the match remains on a knifes edge.

So New Zealand has an overall lead of 116 with six second wicket innings in hand going into day three of the Test. With the match situation so tight, each and every session from now to the end of the game will be crucial. Whoever plays the better cricket tomorrow will be well on their way to winning the Test and going up 1-0 in the three match series.

New Zealand 275
Scott Styris 103*, Nathan Astle 51
Dwayne Smith 3-71, Ian Bradshaw 3-73

West Indies 257
Ramnaresh Sarwan 62, Dwayne Smith 59
Chris Martin 3-80, Daniel Vettori 2-7, Scott Syris 2-23, Shane Bond 2-57

New Zealand 98-4
Jamie How 37, Peter Fulton 28, Stephen Fleming 19*
Fidel Edwards 2/27, Ian Bradshaw 2/34

New Zealand lead by 116 runs.

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