So then, a whole new twist on how to not quite win a test match. For the third time at home in 2013 New Zealand totally dominated a home test match without quite … getting … over … the … line.
How New Zealand got the build-up right
Credit where credit is due. New Zealand Cricket copped a pounding when it made the call to bring McCullum, Taylor and Southee back from Bangladesh to prepare for this series rather than carry on to Sri Lanka for some ODIs and T20 matches. Those matches ended up being largely rained out anyway.
In McCullum’s case the idea was to give them time facing the red ball and getting them mentally adjusted for test cricket. The first part of that never really worked, but they clearly got into the right frame of mind.
In Southee’s case it was about getting him back into the groove following a long injury lay-off. In the first innings he superb, and his ripping through the West Indies top order on the third morning was a pivotal part of the match. He faded a bit the following day, as you would expect, but it was definitely the right thing to do.
The West Indies on the other hand
#Thank you Sachin. The hastily arranged West Indies tour to India was all about Tendulkar finishing up with his 200th and final test at home rather than the inconvenience of having to end up by facing Steyn & co in the Republic. And in the West Indies, the BCCI found a willing participant for this carnival.
So, it ended up with the bulk of the team arriving in the country on the back of some ODIs in India around 48 hours before the test started.
In fact Kraigg Brathwaite was still stuck at Customs when the test started. Perhaps they didn’t trust the name on his passport.
The exception to this was Shiv and a few extras who got to play a farcial non-match against New Zealand XI and a half at Lincoln. Even then they didn’t seem to see the need, and called play off around 4:30 every day.
As this test showed, they will get better.
There was one winner from the final day
The biggest winner out of the final day turned out to be the groundsman. Until then, for the second year in a row, the University Oval had produced one of those annoying pitches that did not offer balance between bat and ball.
The number of caught and bowled opportunities on Day 4 is as good a sign as any that we had a disfunctional pitch on our hands.
But then, on the final morning Boult had one shoot through to trap the outstanding Bravo, and suddenly it was a contest again, and Shillingford was able to become a factor. Next time, can we please have that a day earlier?
It has taken 151 tests but perhaps this test showed that Chanderpaul has a weakness after all. That inswinger from a left-armer bowling over the wicket got him in both innings. Guess what we can expect a lot more of in Wellington.
Those Pesky Day 5 Run Chases
Having trouble going after a score around 100 on the last day of a test against the West Indies in Dunedin is not a new thing. And this chase was a confused affair from start to finish.
For a start, the West Indies really only had two bowlers. Sammy was injured, Gabriel was smashed around in the first innings and Deonarine is really a part-timer. So 113 should never have been a tricky chase.
But in a funny way this fact, and the knowledge that rain was on its way confused New Zealand’s chase. Should they just see off the fit bowlers, should they go after Gabriel when he came on, and how much belief is to be had in weather radars?
In the end it was a mixture of tentativeness, followed by a mad rush to pull it off in half an hour, followed by unnecessary caution while ignoring the inevitable. The telling statistic is that the last 23 balls produced 3 runs.
A collective shambles
Follow on debate
Despite the New Zealand bowlers’ flagging performance on Day 4, there will be questions raised as to whether enforcing the follow-on was the right call. Ironically, it was the knowledge that rain was likely on the last day that persuaded New Zealand to enforce it.
It did mean they bowled for 224 overs on the trot. The hosts will be wanting to bat first at The Basin.
Meanwhile note that Michael Clarke, in a very similar situation, has chosen to bat again in Adelaide today.