Gloomy Day for West Indies

On a first day cut short by rain and bad light, James Franklin put New Zealand well on top of the West Indies with a five-wicket bag as the visitors collapsed to a position from which it will be difficult to recover and keep the series alive.

The day had a far from perfect start for the home team, losing Shane Bond only minutes before the toss, the ailment-prone fast bowler this time out due to a virus. When Stephen Fleming lost the toss and was asked to bowl, most New Zealand supporters would have liked to have been able to begin again from about an hour in the past.

But things were looking much brighter for New Zealand not long afterwards, and much less so for the West Indies. Chris Gayle, who had started very promisingly with some typically impressive shots, played a loose shot at a ball from Franklin that didn’t really need to be played at and was comfortably caught by Brendon McCullum. McCullum also took the catch to bring about the fall of the second wicket, but it could hardly be described as comfortable. Daren Ganga just touched a ball from Kyle Mills that was heading down the leg side and the New Zealand wicketkeeper took a diving one handed catch. When Brian Lara edged a ball from Franklin to Fleming at first slip for 1, it was 49-3 and the West Indies seemed to have used up all their luck for the day.

That theory gained more credibility soon after lunch as two umpiring decisions, one wrong and one slightly dodgy, went against the visitors. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the unfortunate victim of the wrong decision, scoring eight before the ball clipped the thigh pad on the way to Fleming and the West Indies captain was given out by Daryl Harper. Harper was again the culprit when Dwayne Bravo was given lbw for 9, when it looked as if the ball may have just bounced over the stumps.

No excuses for wickets six and seven though, as Denesh Ramdin played a poor shot to play a Franklin ball onto his stumps for 2 and Rawl Lewis was out to a beautiful ball by Chris Martin, a sharply bouncing ball giving Fleming a third catch for the day.

Runako Morton, who didn’t play in the first test in Auckland and wouldn’t today if it hadn’t been for the series-ending leg injury sustained by Ramnaresh Sarwan, was the only West Indies player who can be truly proud of his performance on the first day. Coming in at number 3, Morton batted for just under three hours and faced 117 balls for his 63, hitting eleven fours all around the ground and a big six off the bowling of Daniel Vettori. But after a lengthy rain delay, in a spell of play that lasted just two overs before bad light took the players from the field again, Morton was plumb lbw to a wonderful ball from Franklin. It was a fitting way for the left-armer, playing on his home ground, to register his third five-wicket bag in tests.

In a frustrating final session which was frequently interrupted by the weather, very few of the scheduled overs were able to be completed.

A number of the batsmen were out due to poor batting or umpiring, but nothing should be taken away from the bowling effort by the New Zealanders. James Franklin obviously stands out with his five wickets, regularly beating the bat and conceding far fewer runs than he did in Auckland, but it was a good effort by the entire bowling attack. Kyle Mills, who an hour before play was expecting to be carrying the drinks for the next five days, caused many problems for the batsmen in an exciting opening spell and highly deserved his first wicket. At one stage the number of runs he conceded was well below the number of overs he had bowled, but he was hit for a few runs towards the end and finished the day with figures of 1-52 from 17. Chris Martin too was expensive, and was fortunate to have the wicket of Chanderpaul, but he produced a difficult sharply rising ball to end the innings of Rawl Lewis, who to that point had looked slightly ominous from a New Zealand point of view. Vettori and Nathan Astle bowled eight overs between them, both ending with very tidy figures, especially considering Vettori conceded a six in his 0-13 from five.

Although Chanderpaul and Bravo can consider themselves unlucky, the rest of the West Indies batting lineup had no excuses, being out to excellent bowling or poor shot selection, or a mixture of both. Although it isn’t impossible for the visitors to win from here, the pitch is better for batting than they made it seem today and it is difficult to see the New Zealanders getting anything but a first innings lead. However, the inexperienced top order could well remain a problem and if the West Indies manage to get a few wickets in succession anything could happen. It should be an absorbing second day, one on which the match may well be decided, so hopefully the weather will co-operate and allow an uninterrupted day of play.

West Indies 182-8
Runako Morton 63, Chris Gayle 30
James Franklin 5-44, Chris Martin 2-66

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