- West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Jamaica, 1st day
Roach and Best make it West Indies' day
West Indies achieved what was expected of them after winning the toss and opting to bowl, that was to bowl the opposition out. Kemar Roach justified his captain's decision with a four-wicket haul, backed by Tino Best, to restrict the struggling New Zealand side to 260 on a Sabina Park pitch which offered something more to the seamers on the opening day than the surface at Antigua. New Zealand, though, brought it on themselves with a series of poor shots and as a result they could never keep West Indies under pressure for sustained periods.
The captain Ross Taylor said after the first Test that his team needed more centuries if they are to mount any pressure on the opposition. But once again, they turned in an underwhelming performance with the bat, with two batsmen, including Taylor himself, making half-centuries but failing to convert them. New Zealand had made decent progress till tea, but lost their last seven wickets for 99 runs to give West Indies the upper hand.
The overnight rain had left some moisture on the pitch and that prompted Darren Sammy to give his bowlers first use of the conditions. His seamers induced mistakes from the top order with an incisive opening spell. Best, in for the injured Ravi Rampaul, made an impact straightaway, beating the batsmen with pace and extra lift from a good length. There was no swing on offer but movement off the pitch, which kept the openers guessing. A couple of outside edges fell short of the packed slip cordon, Guptill took one on the chest, and it looked like a wicket was around the corner.
It came via Roach, though West Indies should consider themselves fortunate. Roach bowled it on the channel outside off, induced the half-hearted drive from BJ Watling, and the ball landed safely in Chris Gayle's hands at first slip. But as is routine with Roach, the umpires checked for the front-foot no-ball and replays showed his foot landing on the line, with a tiny part of his boot behind it, and sliding forward. The umpires went by the first point of contact and gave the bowler the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't the most convincing decision but Watling had to go.
There were no such doubts about the second wicket though. Four balls later, Brendon McCullum got a jaffa from Best, which held its line on the corridor outside the off stump and found a thin edge to the wicketkeeper. Taylor had a close call first ball when the ball kicked up, brushed his glove and shoulder, and dropped wide of point.
Guptill and Taylor, virtually opening the innings at 12 for 2, then weathered the storm. Taylor took advantage when Roach began to lose focus, driving the half volleys and spanking anything short and wide. Guptill scooped Sammy elegantly over long-on for six and Taylor too slapped one past point.
Taylor was more positive after lunch, pouncing on some wayward offerings by Roach and brought up his fifty with a pull. Taylor had set the platform to score a century, but threw it away at 60 off a rash stroke. He was harsh on anything short and wide outside off and after putting away a couple of boundaries wide of point, he got too ambitious against a Best delivery which cramped him for room. Denesh Ramdin pouched a thick outside edge and Best celebrated his second wicket with his usual chest-beating theatrics.
It increased the pressure on Guptill, then on 43. He was watchful for most part, as if settling to play a long innings, but was alert to anything bowled short. He clubbed Sunil Narine for a flat six over midwicket and brought up his third straight fifty of the series with a pull off Narine past square leg.
The fight went out after tea, giving West Indies another opening. Kane Williamson had worked his way to a patient 22 before playing a loose drive against the part-time off spin of Narsingh Deonarine, offering an easy catch to Sammy. Dean Brownlie did nothing to reverse his poor form on this tour, nicking Roach to the wicketkeeper without scoring. The responsibility only piled on Guptill, who now had to shepherd an inexperienced lower order, already depleted by the loss of Daniel Vettori.
A run-out added to New Zealand's woes. Guptill looked in discomfort, perhaps with his hamstring, but his partner Kruger van Wyk took the risk of pushing for a quick single. Van Wyk punched it to cover but Guptill, who was struggling to make it to the other end, couldn't beat the direct hit from Best. New Zealand had lost their mainstay and from then on it was a question of how quickly West Indies could wrap up the innings.
After losing three wickets for nine runs, the last four wickets added 90, perhaps the only silver lining in an otherwise poor session for the visitors. Tim Southee and Neil Wagner swung their bats around to take the score past 250. Roach picked up his third wicket when he had Southee edging to slip and later wrapped up the innings when Wagner miscued a pull to mid-on. New Zealand couldn't sneak in any wickets in the five overs before stumps. They will count on their four-man pace attack to take advantage of the conditions. Otherwise, it could be another Chris Gayle show.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo