TEST: Lead over 300 as West Indies bowlers struggle

SUMMARY: New Zealand 447-9 (De Grandhomme 105, Taylor 93, Nicholls 67, Blundell 57*, Roach 3-73) lead West Indies 134 by 313 runs.


Colin de Grandhomme capitalised on a strong platform laid by fifties from Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls to raze West Indies with a stunning onslaught that all but batted them out of the Wellington Test.

Along with Tom Blundell’s debut fifty, de Grandhomme hammered a 71-ball maiden ton, the second fastest by a New Zealand batsman in Tests, to thrust New Zealand to 447-9, a lead of 313.

De Grandhomme has one of the strongest bottom hands in international cricket, but it seemed West Indies weren’t aware. They attacked his ribs, and when that didn’t work, they fed him on his pads. His first eight boundaries were through the leg side, forcing West Indies to change their line of attack, but by then, he was in unstoppable hitting rhythm.

He struck 14 boundaries – 11 fours and three sixes – before chipping a catch to long-on off Roston Chase in search for another. He contributed almost 60% of New Zealand’s 180 runs in the final session.

Blundell played the supporting act in a 148-run, seventh-wicket partnership. He left confidently early in the innings, and gradually showed off his range. He used his feet well, milking the spinners on both sides of the wicket, and used cross-batted strokes, the late cut in particular, against the quicks. He finished with an unbeaten 57 off 100 balls.

Taylor and Nicholls had earlier shared a 127-run diligent stand that left West Indies with insufficient resources to counter the lower order. Over the last year across formats, Taylor has often consumed too many deliveries to kick his innings into gear.

On the first evening in Wellington, he had made 12 off 32 after weathering a testing spell, but in favourable batting conditions on the second day, Taylor’s positive intent was evident from the outset. He struck a 160-ball 93 to put New Zealand in control.

When Taylor defended, he did with soft hands, looking for singles either side of the wicket. When West Indies’ seamers offered width, he slashed behind point and drove through cover. Sunny overhead conditions offering no lateral movement aided his strokeplay.

When West Indies switched to using the short ball as a tactic, just like New Zealand had done on the first day, Taylor took on the pull, albeit with middling success. He scored 20 runs through third man, 19 through cover and 13 behind square on the leg side, those three areas producing 79% of his runs before lunch.

Attempting to stem the copious flow of runs, West Indies set defensive fields with the new ball on the horizon. Taylor then tucked, nudged and pushed his way towards a hundred in an insipid period.

The game kicked back to life when West Indies took the new ball in the 82nd over. Kemar Roach, from wide of the crease, jagged one away late from a leaden-footed Taylor.

The set-up, check. Off the first ball of his next over, Roach got one to seam back in to beat Taylor’s inside edge and strike him plumb in front of off. The wicket, check. Taylor fell seven runs short of his fourth successive ton at home against West Indies.

Nicholls, a naturally attacking player, found his fluency immediately at the other end. He opened his account with a flick behind square for four off his first delivery. He did leave well through his innings, waiting for West Indies to stray into his pads to accumulate his runs. In the first over after lunch, he gloved a pull off Jason Holder to the keeper, but replays showed the bowler had overstepped. Nicholls only grew more patient thereafter.

Roach produced West Indies’ only wicket of the morning session with an unplayable delivery. Bowling from around the wicket in the 48th over, he got one to pitch outside leg and jag away prodigiously off the seam. On 42, Raval, prodding from the crease, didn’t account for as much movement and edged behind. An inch shorter and the ball would have beaten the edge. An inch fuller and Raval would have got behind the line. 

The bowlers lacked the discipline, conceding 12 no-balls, and giving New Zealand several boundary-hitting options. All it did was gradually erode their chances in the Test. (ESPNCricinfo)

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