Green top excites ahead of Basin Reserve opener

The Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand, the venue for the First Test Match between the West Indies and New Zealand (ESPNCricinfo.com)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, CMC – The grassy surface at the Basin Reserve remained a major talking point, as West Indies geared up for the opening Test against the Black Caps starting here Friday (6 pm Thursday, Eastern Caribbean time).

It was hard for the seamers on either side to ignore the green top at the venue as they training during the week, prompting discussions the toss would be a key element to the outcome of the contest.

The Caribbean side boast a battery of pacers and a single frontline spinner but captain Jason Holder said there would be no rush to settle on the final composition of the team just yet, despite the lush covering on the Wellington track.

“I could definitely see the reason people would come here and want to bowl first,” Holder told a pre-match media conference.

“I don’t think there are many batsmen in world cricket who would turn up to a ground and see that much grass on a pitch and would be willing to have a go at it.

“Having [said] that, it is international sport. We can be asked to bat if I lose the toss tomorrow so we’ve got to have an open mind towards it, we’ve got to be professional towards it and just assess the conditions as we see it.

“I don’t want to sit here and predetermine what is going to happen to the surface so I think it’s best for us as a group to analyse it and assess [the pitch] for ourselves.”

The Black Caps have already confirmed that left-armer seamers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, along with Matt Henry, will comprise their attack, a line-up that will make life difficult for West Indies.

But speedster Shannon Gabriel, who has been at the top of his game in recent series, could prove a handful on the Basin Reserve track and though Kemar Roach is down on pace since his return to international cricket last July, following an 18-month break, his ability to move the ball both ways will be an asset.

Though with only three wins in eight Tests this year, the Windies have been impressive of recent, and their astonishing win over England in the second Test at Headingley in August is proof of their ability.

But without a series win on New Zealand soil in 22 years, Holder said it was important that the Windies drew on, but moved on from the win at Headingley, especially with more success to be had.

“It [win over England] was significant knowing the state of that series and how we started that series but for me that’s gone, that’s buried in the past,” the all-rounder stressed.

“We can obviously pull on it at times when we’re down, if need be … but I tell the guys we need to create our future and pretty much live in the present.

“What’s at stake now is a Test series win in New Zealand and we’ve got to set our minds to that and play the cricket necessary in order to win this series.”

West Indies are coming off a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo earlier this month, but more importantly, have key players appearing to finally come into their own.

Batsmen like opener Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope and Roston Chase have all showed signs of consistency while the bowling attack has also clicked on occasions.

Holder said there was evidence the side was pulling all the important elements of their game together at a crucial stage.

“We’ve built up quite nicely over this past year; the guys have been playing some decent cricket. We’re still not the finished product, we still have a lot of improvement to be made but I think we’re headed in the right direction at this present time,” he explained.

“I’m really pleased with the progression of the side and I’m really looking forward to this series in New Zealand. I think it will be a very good series, especially coming off a Test series win in Zimbabwe and then we’ve obviously played some pretty decent cricket in England prior to that.”

SQUADS:

NEW ZEALAND – Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.

WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Sunil Ambris, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich, Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph, Shimron Hetmyer, Raymon Reifer.

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