PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – A stunning onslaught from Chris Gayle helped ease West Indies frustration as the Caribbean overcame rain and determined lower order New Zealand batting, to win the second Test by ten wickets and level the three-match series 1-1 here yesterday.
Set a paltry 93 for victory after the Black Caps doggedly extended their second innings up until lunch on a dramatic final day, West Indies sped to 95 without loss with the left-handed Gayle slamming a trademark, whirlwind unbeaten 80 from 46 balls.
The Jamaican, in his 101st Test, belted seven fours and six sixes, reaching his half-century from a mere 28 deliveries – the second fastest fifty by a West Indies player in Tests.
He overshadowed Man-of-the-Match Kraigg Brathwaite, who was unbeaten on 14, and ended the match in just 13.2 overs.
His blitzkrieg also erased any hopes New Zealand had of a shock result after their lower order rallied admirably in the extended first session to lift the total to 331, before the innings ended 13 minutes after the scheduled lunch break.
Wicketkeeper BJ Watling finished unbeaten on 66 while overnight partner Mark Craig scored a superb 67, the pair sharing a vexing 99-run, ninth wicket stand which left West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin bereft of ideas.
After resuming at their overnight 257 for eight, New Zealand added another 74 runs, helped by a short rain break but mainly by negative tactics by skipper Ramdin who set the field deep from as early as the first over, allowing both batsmen to pick off singles and ease any pressure.
Craig, who bowled poorly in the match, compensated in an innings lasting 167 balls, three hours and which included nine fours.
Watling, meanwhile, remained unflappable throughout, striking just four fours in a knock that required 216 balls in 6-1/2 hours at the crease.
New Zealand were also aided by two dropped chances in the third over of the morning from fast bowler Jerome Taylor when the left-handed Craig was missed off successive deliveries in the slip cordon – first by Sulieman Benn and then by Gayle.
Boundaries resulted from both chances, allowing Craig to move into the 40s and bring up his maiden half-century in his second Test, two overs later.
With West Indies clearly running out of ideas and patience, fast bowler Kemar Roach finally got the breakthrough in the third over following the first drinks break, when Craig was taken behind by Ramdin, driving.
Trent Boult, who made eight, joined Watling to add another 20 runs for the final wicket, spending 40 minutes at the crease, and once again helping to frustrate the Windies bowlers.
They were a few overs away from carrying New Zealand to the safety of lunch when Boult played at a ball from fast bowler Shannon Gabriel he should have left, giving Ramdin his fifth catch of the innings.
Roach was the best bowler with four for 74 while Gabriel (2-66), Taylor (2-73) and left-arm spinner Benn (2-78), all picked up two wickets apiece.
West Indies were no doubt nervous when rain held up the start of their run chase but once the skies cleared, Gayle quickly put all their anxieties to rest with his aggressive approach.
He flicked the first ball of the innings from seamer Tim Southee for four before taking another two leg-side boundaries in the bowler’s next over.
It was left-arm pacer Boult, however, who felt the real weight of Gayle’s bat, conceding 20 runs in his third over, the sixth of the innings.
Gayle cleared the sightscreen with the third ball of the over, smashed the fifth ball over long off for another six before clearing long off again for the third six of the over.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi also came under attack in his first over which cost 17 runs, as Gayle belted him first over long-on and then over mid-wicket for sixes, raising his half-century and West Indies’ fifty in the eighth over.
Windies then cantered to victory, with Gayle cutting slow bowler Kane Williamson to the point boundary to achieve victory at 2:42 pm.
The third and deciding Test bowls off at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown next Thursday.