Styris’s Day

At the end of an absorbing first day of the first test between New Zealand and the West Indies at Eden Park, the match is fairly evenly poised. For that, New Zealand has just one man to thank, Scott Styris. The Auckland local played one of his finest test innings, guiding the total through to 275 and finishing unbeaten on 103, and then took two wickets in three balls to help take the West Indies from a promising 47-0 to a slightly precarious 51-3. However, the two men not out overnight are Ramnaresh Sarwan and Brian Lara.

The day started well for the West Indies, with Shivnarine Chanderpaul winning the toss and putting New Zealand in to bat on a surface that looked as though it had something in it for the bowlers, which indeed proved to be the case. The first half an hour was successfully negotiated by new opening pair Jamie How and Hamish Marshall though before debutant How was out in devastating circumstances, left stranded at the non-striker’s end as the bowler deflected the ball on to the stumps.

From there, things got a lot worse for the hosts. Marshall was caught off a Jerome Taylor full-toss for 11, and Ian Bradshaw was rewarded for his good bowling throughout the day with the early wickets of Peter Fulton and Stephen Fleming, Fulton edging to gully for 17 and Fleming beaten by a beautiful ball and caught behind for 14. As a result, the New Zealand team were slightly subdued during the lunch break, unlike their enthusiastic opponents.

But after lunch, Nathan Astle brought the change in attitude New Zealand so desperately needed. In an innings that lasted just 57 balls, Astle hit 51 with 10 fours, lifting the run rate above four an over before being the first of a small series of wickets to fall to the bowling of Dwayne Smith. Brendon McCullum looked promising, hitting the ball well including four boundaries in his 19 before he left a ball he just possibly should have played, losing both bails. Daniel Vettori didn’t last long before being yet another New Zealand batsman beaten by a good ball, edging the Smith delivery to Chris Gayle at first slip. Astle meanwhile received a blow to the head not long before his dismissal, and didn’t take his place in the field later in the day.

Meanwhile Styris was starting to settle in at the crease. As every wicket fell his job became more important, and as every wicket fell he seemed to look more and more comfortable at the crease. He was well supported by the last three in the batting order, particularly James Franklin, who batted for just under an hour in his 14. Styris at the other end started to lift his scoring rate. He started in a patient manner, gradually building momentum and bringing up his fifty from 66 balls.

The next fifty took just 48. He hit several powerful boundaries and two big sixes on to the terraces, which due to being exposed to the cool wind were even more deserted than usual for a test match. There were several extremely profitable overs for New Zealand, including one worth 16 runs including three Styris fours in a row, as the score moved along at a rate more often seen in one-day cricket.

When Franklin fell and after a 21-run partnership Shane Bond followed, Chris Martin walked to the crease with Scott Styris on 90. To add to the drama, a light rain shower came across the ground and players were forced from the field for a few minutes while suspense grew among the spectators. When the teams returned to the field, Martin blocked several balls sensibly to huge cheers from the crowd, while Styris carefully worked his way through the nineties, often refusing easy singles early in the over. But then, as we had come to expect from the last hour or so beforehand, Styris, on 99, brought up his century with a powerful shot that the fielder had no chance of stopping from reaching the rope.

But almost immediately afterwards, the innings came to an abrupt and rather unsatisfactory end. Although he had very little chance of staying around for any decent length of time, Chris Martin has every right to feel aggrieved at his treatment by umpire Daryl Harper, who along with Rudi Koertzen did little in the last session of the day to endear himself to the Auckland crowd. Martin was beaten by yet another good ball from Bradshaw, and wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin appealed since there was a noise as the ball went past, but replays clearly showed Martin had not quite managed to make contact. To be fair to Harper though, another brief shower was heading across the ground and giving Martin, who was certain to be clean bowled some time in the not too distant future, out was a convenient way to get the players off without too much of an interruption to play.

After a tight first over from Bond, in which he beat Chris Gayle’s bat twice, Harper’s popularity hardly grew in Franklin’s first over to Daren Ganga. There were three close lbw appeals, and Harper’s decision to give each not out did not go down too well. However, although close, none of those appeared to be clearly wrong. Koertzen however had no such luck, giving Chris Gayle not out after he had clearly either edged or gloved a ball from Shane Bond to gully, suggesting that the ball had hit the forearm. Replays did not agree.

But Gayle and Ganga gave the West Indies a perfect start in conditions that even home team found difficult, putting on 47 for the first wicket, Gayle hitting some typically powerful shots and Ganga at times joining in the fun with a boundary here and there. Bond was consistently threatening and beat the bat on countless occasions, and Franklin was regularly right on target as well, but the batsmen were able to survive and move along comfortably in an excellent opening stand. But Ganga was eventually the first to fall, edging a ball from Martin to How in the slip cordon who comfortably took the catch to end the opener’s innings for 20.

The nightwatchman tactic is often an effective way to protect the top order batsmen from having to go in to bat in the difficult spell at the very end of a day…but not today. Bradshaw was unable to add to his excellent performance with the ball with a good performance of the nightwatchman role, failing to score before falling in the same way as Ganga did, How again the man in third slip. The bowler was none other than Styris, the fourth ball of just his second over. The sixth ball of the same over saw the end of Gayle’s innings, a very thick edge through to McCullum for 25. The West Indies had lost three wickets for two runs, and New Zealand, after looking to be on the back foot just 15 minutes earlier, were well and truly back in the match.

Although the match is fairly evenly poised at the end of the first day, all honours at least from a New Zealand point of view should be directed at just one player. Styris batted brilliantly and bowled almost as well, meaning that with the possible exception of Astle’s vital counter-attacking 51 and the consistently threatening bowling of Bond, it was a one-man team. The visitors though had an excellent first session, with Bradshaw bowling brilliantly throughout the day and Smith superbly at times, and they should be happy with the day overall. They would have perhaps liked stumps to have been drawn about half an hour before they eventually were though.

New Zealand 275
Scott Styris 103 no, Nathan Astle 51
Dwayne Smith 3-71, Ian Bradshaw 3-73

West Indies 51-3
Chris Gayle 25, Daren Ganga 20
Scott Styris 2-2, Chris Martin 1-10

New Zealand lead by 224 runs.

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