West Indies batsmen flop yet again
West Indies’ inept batting line-up, shortened on the first day by equally inept selectors, duly crumbled on the final day of the third Test against New Zealand at Kensington Oval to lose by 53 runs and surrender the series 2-1.
Fast bowlers Trent Boult (3 for 48) and Tim Southee (3 for 28), as well as off-spinner Mark Craig (3 for 84) did the demolition job as the Kiwis won their first series away from home against a top-eight nation in 12 years. For the West Indies, struggling with repeated batting failures and strange selections, it was their third straight Test series loss, following defeats away to India and New Zealand. Selectors had on Thursday decided to shorten the batting by omitting Jermaine Blackwood in preference for off-spinner Shane Shillingford whose enforced inability to deliver the doosra has significantly reduced his effectiveness.
It took Jason Holder, a debutant at No. 7, to provide the hosts’ strongest source of resistance today with a top-score of 52. New Zealand attacked him with a short-ball barrage.
He sustained a painful blow to the thumb but shook it off. After some time at the crease, he took them on and when the ball ventured closer to his half, he exhibited some sweet drives to fuel the innings’ only half-century.
Shillingford (30 not out) provided dogged support as the eighth wicket contributed 77 runs. He weaved under bouncers, took body blows when the fifth-day pitch misbehaved and hit out with impressive power but their efforts could not resurrect a poor top order performance.
The visitors’ declaration with an overnight lead of 307 was lazily dubbed brave. The fact that they were away from home would have been discussed. The criticism they would invite if West Indies overhauled the target and claim the series had the potential to frighten. But Brendon McCullum does not appear a captain who prefers the safe route. Moreover, in Boult and Southee, he had two exceptional new-ball bowlers, who would be operating against a depleted batting line-up. It wasn’t a punt. McCullum was simply giving his bowlers the time they would need to dismiss the opposition, especially with showers predicted. Two of them did interrupt play, but in the end they contributed to a stunning finish as the Test went down to the final hour.
Boult’s skill in swinging the ball both ways left the batsmen noticeably unsure. Kraigg Brathwaite shouldered arms to a rousing in-dipper that eased off his pad to cannon into off stump. Kirk Edwards followed the same method but had managed to protect his stumps with his pads. Boult flew into an appeal and the umpire obliged, but DRS surprisingly indicated that the ball would have bounced over off stump. Edwards survived but he was clearly shaken. Another lovely delivery – this one eased across the right-hander – took the outside edge and found Ross Taylor at second slip.
A sedate Chris Gayle was hoping to occupy the crease until New Zealand’s momentum eased off. However, Southee enticed him with a fuller delivery and a booming drive ended up deflecting the ball back onto his stumps. West Indies had crumbled to 31 for 3 and were eyeing another collapse in the face. Shivnarine Chanderpaul abated those concerns for a brief period but traipsed down the track against Craig to be stumped for the first time in 266 innings to leave his side reeling again. And they never quite recovered.
Southee pierced through the middle order with some intelligent exhibition of skills. He had a battle of patience with Darren Bravo, who had seemed on making up for a loose shot in the first innings. He was tight around his off stump and held his drives in check for 97 balls. Then came the teaser outside off and Bravo just couldn’t help himself and perished at gully for the second time in the match. Denesh Ramdin succumbed soon after and a lengthy tail was exposed.
Craig did his bit to assist the seamers and with ample assistance from a worn pitch, he was able to generate good flight and dip to ensure the batsmen were being strangled from both ends. His heroics with the bat have overshadowed his primary responsibility but today he was key in quelling the lower order’s defiance.
New Zealand looked an impressive outfit over their home summer but success on the road would rank all the more sweeter – it was only their fifth away Test win in five years.