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  • West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua, 4th day

New Zealand give themselves hope

The Report by Kanishkaa Balachandran
July 28, 2012
New Zealand 351 and 199 for 3 (Guptill 67, McCullum 84) lead West Indies 522 (Sammy 50, Deonarine 79) by 28 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Darren Sammy cuts on his way to 50 © DigicelCricket.com/Brooks LaTouche Photography
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After playing catch-up for two days, New Zealand finally showed more control over a sustained period to entertain thoughts of saving the game, after West Indies held the initiative with a 171-run first-innings lead. Half-centuries by Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum helped redress the balance as New Zealand comfortably erased the deficit and ended the day 28 ahead with seven wickets in hand, including that of Ross Taylor.

West Indies began the day trying to muster as much as they could with their four remaining wickets to try and bat New Zealand out of the game. Narsingh Deonarine and Darren Sammy helped themselves to half-centuries on a fourth-day pitch which didn't hold too many demons. West Indies batted out the entire first session, went past 500 and secured a 150-plus first-innings lead for the first time since the Multan Test of 2006.

With five sessions left in the Test, West Indies had enough time to extend their domination and push for a win. However, their seamers weren't able to sneak in the early breakthroughs and New Zealand's opening pair batted positively. The plan seemed to adopt a wait and watch approach and not give the West Indies bowlers an early advantage, considering the scoreboard pressure.

New Zealand had the entire lunch break to regroup before they came out to bat, having bowled out the hosts at the stroke of lunch. Martin Guptill began with a sweetly timed punch off the back foot which beat the bowler to get the innings going. The seamers at times bowled too full and on the pads to Guptill, who easily flicked them away to the leg side. There was a silly mid-on in place for the checked drive and Guptill nearly chipped it to that fielder.

Kemar Roach ran in hard to work up pace and beat the bat on occasion, but couldn't sustain the pressure long enough. Daniel Flynn was strong on the front foot, punching a half volley down the ground and opening the face of the bat to steer it past the slips. Darren Sammy brought on Sunil Narine after eight overs, when New Zealand had added a brisk 34.

Narine had a shout in his opening over when the ball struck Guptill's pads as he tried to flick it. It turned out to be a wasted review by West Indies as replays showed the ball possibly missing the leg stump. Narine had better luck against Flynn in his following over, trapping him on the back foot plumb in front of the stumps. Flynn's departure slackened the run-rate, as Sammy in particular kept things tight with a stump-to-stump line. The pair of Guptill and Brendon McCullum were also watchful against Narine, who got a few to shoot off the rough outside the off stump.

West Indies had an opportunity to get rid of the well-set Guptill after tea, but they had only Roach to blame. Roach's no-ball problem has persisted through his career, and his foot fault no doubt must have been annoying for the team and fans. Guptill tamely chipped the ball to midwicket on 42, but the umpires wisely decided to take another look at the legality of the delivery. Roach had indeed overstepped and Guptill had a life. He rubbed it in by chipping the same bowler over midwicket and went on to raise his fifty. He had another close shave when a Narine delivery sprung up off the rough, lobbed off his glove and landed in front of gully.

McCullum showed more responsibility than he did in the first innings, where he threw his wicket away after making a start. His off-side play was more decisive. He tore into the part-time off spin of Marlon Samuels, slamming him for three fours in an over wide of backward point. The pair negated Narine by playing the ball late. McCullum was happy to get on the backfoot and shuffle across to play the off breaks.

The pair had put on a crucial 123 before Guptill's luck ran out. Narine's round-the-wicket angle worked as he got one to turn and bounce, catching Guptill's glove on the way to Assad Fudadin, who took a sharp catch in front of his face at forward short leg. Roach's no-ball had cost West Indies 25 runs, as Guptill walked back for 67, his second fifty for the match.

McCullum continued to look positive, putting away deliveries square of the wicket on the off side. Ironically, it was the square cut that led to his dismissal. Roach bowled it short and McCullum went for the cut but ended up dragging it onto his stumps. He was 16 away from a century, and the frustration was palpable, considering the timing of his dismissal. Ross Taylor, who had warmed up with a couple of boundaries off Narine through the off side, had the nightwatchman Neil Wagner for company.

New Zealand may have emerged the better side on the context of the fourth day alone, but the pressure will be on them to consolidate this position going into the final day. Much will depend on Taylor to play a role similar to Guptill's as the innings anchor. West Indies have the opportunity to prove that they have the maturity to close out a Test match.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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