(Reuters) – Rain scuppered New Zealand’s chances of completing a first test win in over a year on Saturday as the opening match against West Indies at University Oval in Dunedin ended in a draw with the hosts just 33 runs shy of victory.
Light rain started falling just before the tea break with Ross Taylor on 16 and Corey Anderson on 20 having consolidated New Zealand’s chase for 112 runs following a spectacular top-order collapse sparked by Shane Shillingford.
The hosts were on 79 for four at the end of the game when it was abandoned at 1810 local (0510 GMT) after off-spinner Shillingford had threatened to run through the side and seal a remarkable comeback victory on the final day.
Shillingford reduced New Zealand to 44 for four in the 16th over and had the visitors sniffing the possibility of becoming just the fourth side to achieve victory after being forced to follow on.
“Little bit disappointed but we can’t do anything about the weather,” New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said in a televised interview. “We played some excellent cricket but credit to the West Indies, they responded very well.
“To score 500 after being asked to follow on was a fine effort, but I thought we played some excellent cricket and were only 30 runs away from winning a test match.”
Shillingford, who had opened the bowling with Tino Best as the pitch offered variable bounce and some turn, gave the hosts a real scare when he ripped the top off the host’s batting order.
He had Peter Fulton caught by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin for three on the first ball of the final over before lunch, then did more damage after the break.
Aaron Redmond was caught at leg slip by Narsingh Deonarine for six before Hamish Rutherford was dismissed in exactly the same fashion as in the first innings, trying to hit a boundary down the ground only to be caught by Shannon Gabriel.
The 24-year-old Rutherford, who immediately dropped his head after he hit the ball, trudged off to ringing laughter from the West Indian fielders, one of whom yelled ‘what a shot’, as he departed for 20.
McCullum hit a four on the first delivery he faced, but his aggression was his downfall when he mistimed a sweep off Shillingford and Ramdin had time to take an easy catch to dismiss him for nine.
The chatter amongst the West Indians increased markedly as they sensed the possibility of a remarkable victory, knowing that only three other sides in cricket history had won a test after being forced to follow on.
Anderson and Taylor, who scored a career-best 217 not in the first innings, settled the home side’s nerves and appeared to be well set to achieve victory in the final session before the rain came.
“We were still very confident that Ross and Corey would put together a partnership to win and we had some very good batters to come as well,” McCullum added.
“We can still improve, but overall I thought it was a pretty good test by us.”
West Indies’ second innings had ended about 20 minutes before lunch with New Zealand capturing their final four wickets for the addition of 64 runs with Darren Bravo top scoring with 218 in their second innings of 507.
“It was a good comeback from us, though the weather did play a part,” West Indies captain Darren Sammy said. “I think coming from India and only having a couple of days to get ready really showed in the first two innings of the match.
“The way we fought as a team, credit must go to Darren Bravo to put the team into a position where we are happy with the draw.”
New Zealand have not won a test in more than a year, having now drawn six and lost four of their matches since McCullum took over the captaincy in late 2012.
The second game of the three-match series starts at Wellington’s Basin Reserve on Dec. 11.