Neil Wagner’s role in New Zealand’s set-up is unambiguous. In an attack with world-class swing bowlers, Wagner is tasked with enforcing with a hard length. When West Indies’ openers put on a display of impeccable defensive technique, New Zealand changed tact, employing a barrage of short balls to a solid top order. It played right into Wagner’s hands, who ripped through West Indies with a career-best 7 for 39, the second-best figures for New Zealand against West Indies, to topple the visitors over for 134 on the first day in Wellington.
After Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell put on a 59-run opening partnership, captain Kane Williamson’s hand was forced. He had a short leg and leg gully in, and fine leg and square leg out for Wagner. West Indies, it seemed, were more comfortable pulling than fending. Brathwaite’s first boundary was a top-edged pull for six over the keeper.
Wagner, from around the wicket, continued to angled short deliveries into their ribs. Brathwaite, trying to defend with a straight bat, then awkwardly fended a catch to short leg, only giving Wagner more oomph in his spell.
On the stroke of lunch, a short ball from Boult didn’t climb as steeply as Powell had expected. He dropped his hands to let it go, but the ball ricocheted low to third slip off the glove. The scales evened out after a dominating morning for West Indies.
The session turned decisively in New Zealand’s favour as Shimron Hetmyer, who struck three delectable boundaries in his 13, also fended a catch to second slip, unable to sway out of the line of a short delivery. Those wickets prior to lunch did substantial mental damage, and their change in technique was evident.
Shai Hope gloved a wafted pull to the keeper down the leg side two balls after the break. Sunil Ambris, standing deep in the crease anticipating another bouncer, clipped a back-of-a-length delivery to fine leg, but his backward momentum meant his back foot clipped the leg stump. Ambris hit wicket b Wagner 0 (1) on debut.
Roston Chase also chose to stand leg side of the ball to get into a better position to face the short ball. All that helped him do was clip a leg-side delivery into the hands of leg gully. The ball of the day came immediately after. He delivered the perfect yorker to Jason Holder off his first ball. Not crouching as much as he should have, the ball crept under Holder’s poke to hit off stump.
A score of 59 for 0 quickly turned miserable as West Indies slumped to 105 for 9. West Indies’ last pair of Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach added a defiant 29-run stand before Wagner had Gabriel caught at second slip to finish with seven wickets.
It was all good for the majority of the morning for West Indies. Both openers played close to their body and waited for the bowlers to err in areas they could benefit from. They would also have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of either seam or swing for New Zealand’s seamers through the first session.
Trent Boult often hit the perfect area – fuller than a good length – in his opening spell. Boult usually gets his wickets when the ball swings from that length, but with no lateral movement available, the openers were rather comfortable leaving or defending. Boult began the day with three straight maidens.
Matt Henry, brought in for Tim Southee, searched for movement with a full length, but overpitched often. Powell, in particular, was then rewarded for his patience as he drove straight productively. (ESPNCricinfo.com)
New Zealand ended the day in a strong position at 85 for two.
WEST INDIES 1st Innings
K Brathwaite c Nicholls b Wagner 24
K Powell c Raval b Boult 42
S Hetmyer c Latham b Wagner 13
S Hope c wkp Blundell b Wagner 0
R Chase c Raval b Wagner 5
S Ambris hit wkt b Wagner 0
+S Dowrich run out 18
*J Holder b Wagner 0
K Roach not out 14
M Cummins b Boult 1
S Gabriel c Latham b Wagner 10
Extras (b2, lb5) 7
TOTAL (all out, 45.4 overs) 134
Fall of wickets: 1-59, 2-75, 3-79, 4-80, 5-80, 6-97, 7-97, 8-104, 9-105, 10-134.
Bowling: Boult 16-8-36-2, Henry 11-1-39-0, de Grandhomme 4-1-13-0, Wagner 14.4-2-39-7.
WEST INDIES 2nd Innings
T Latham c Roach b Holder 37
J Raval not out 29
*K Williamson c Hope b Roach 1
R Taylor not out 12
Extras (b4, nb2) 6
TOTAL (2 wkts, 38 overs) 85
To bat: H Nicholls, +T Blundell, M Santner, C de Grandhomme, M Henry, N Wagner, T Boult.
Fall of wickets: 1-65, 2-68.
Bowling: Gabriel 10-2-22-0, Roach 9-4-27-1, Cummins 8-5-6-0, Holder 9-4-19-1, Chase 2-0-7-0.
Position: New Zealand trail by 49 runs with eight wickets intact.
Toss: New Zealand.
Umpires: Ian Gould, Rod Tucker; TV – Bruce Oxenford.