‘Building’ West Indies want to make amends in New Zealand
By Akeem Greene
Another David and Goliath battle will start in Test cricket, as number eight ranked West Indies face number-two New Zealand in two Tests, the first of which starts Wednesday evening (Caribbean time) in Hamilton.
The Black Caps’ history, current form, quality, experience and home advantage, all indicate the West Indies are lightweights in a heavyweight bout.
It was a similar situation when they toured England in July and delivered a thrilling win in the first Test at Southampton, but went the other direction as it regards results for the other two Tests.
However, while they oddly found some success in England in recent years, New Zealand has been a solid fortress for the home side. West Indies have not won a Test series or a Test match since 1995 in New Zealand.
Their best result since has been a draw in both matches on the 2008/09 tour, while on the last tour in 2017/18, they lost both Tests.
Ten members from the last tour return, one of whom is in the reserves, and not the 15-man squad, and it will be another uphill battle.
New Zealand have not lost at home since South Africa defeated them 1-0 (three Tests) on the 2016/17 tour. They have gone on to host West Indies, England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and of recent India, all of which they have won.
Test captain, Jason Holder, speaking on the eve of the contest, indicated the West Indies are building in the right direction and want to make amends of the past failures against the Black Caps.
“We are in with a really good chance; I think cricket is played on the day and we have beaten a lot of the top sides over the last couple of years too and I think this side has been building and heading in the right direction so for me this tournament is really important.”
He added, “The last time we were here, I think we were pretty much outplayed, but it’s pretty much the same guys we have had over the last couple of years. A lot of these guys are familiar with the conditions and would like to make amends of the last time performance. We stand a really good chance but we need to be discipline and execute our plans.”
West Indies batting has been under the microscope for a long time and this series will prove to be another test, given the quality and variety of New Zealand’s pace attack.
However, the Caribbean side should enter this first Test confident from the two practice matches, as they occupied the crease and some went on to get hundreds.
Opener Kraigg Brathwaite made his highest First-Class score (246) against New Zealand A. On the last tour, Brathwaite was West Indies highest runscorer, tallying 201 runs from four innings at an average of 50.25, and highest score of 91.
Darren Bravo, whose highest Test score of 218, came on the 2013 tour to New Zealand, got one century and fell seven short of another in the two warm-up matches.
“Mainly all of our top-six batters got starts and some of them really converted to something really big so positive signs going into the Test match, but it is a totally different battlefield when the game starts, but I’m really confident the guys can transcend some of those performances unto the Test match field.”
The number one Test all-rounder was not worried about the bowlers not finding great success in the two matches, noting that they showcased discipline and are experienced enough to know what to do on the batting friendly pitches.
Holder did not say what his playing XI would be, continuing his trend of affirming such only on the morning of the match, but did say history has proven the venue to be a tough toil for bowlers.
New Zealand will be missing the services of experienced wicket-keeper/batsman BJ Watling, due to a hamstring injury, which allows a debut for opener Will Young, while Tom Blundell will take up the gloves.
The match starts at 18:00h (Eastern Caribbean time).
New Zealand Test Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell (wk), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk), Will Young
West Indies Test Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase (vice-captain), Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul and Kemar Roach.
Test Reserves: Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua DaSilva, Preston McSween, Shayne Moseley, Raymon Reifer and Jayden Seales.