Heavy hitters bolster Black Caps in West Indies
The cavalry has arrived, bar skipper Brendon McCullum, for New Zealand's final test warmup with spots still up for grabs to face West Indies.
Kane Williamson (from England), and Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and Tim Southee (from the Indian Premier League) joined the tourists in Montego Bay and will face the Jamaica Selection XI in the three-dayer starting early tomorrow.
McCullum, whose IPL involvement ended in Saturday's semifinal when his Chennai Super Kings lost to Kings XI Punjab, was given permission to miss their final warmup.
Coach Mike Hesson said last week his captain may even return home to be with newborn daughter Evie, before arriving in time for the first test at Kingston, starting a week today.
New Zealand finished an underwhelming two-day shakedown against the Selection XI on 210-6 in their second innings at Trelawny Stadium, with BJ Watling topscoring with 50. Tomorrow's match will be played on an adjacent strip on the bare wicket block, with Hesson describing them as "extreme" spin-friendly conditions.
The makeup of the opening partnership, and who will share the new ball, remains a slight head-scratcher after no batsman made hay.
Senior opener Peter Fulton batted two hours for 30 in the New Zealand second innings, while Tom Latham (33 and 14) probably has his nose in front of Hamish Rutherford (19 and 13). All three will likely play as a final trial, in McCullum's absence.
Left-armer Neil Wagner's haul of 5-38 in the Selection XI's first innings of 170-9 was also timely. With New Zealand likely to play two frontline pacemen, along with allrounder Anderson and spin duo Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig, it seemed Southee and Trent Boult were certainties.
But if the ball appears unlikely to hoop around for the two swingmen in the Caribbean heat, then Wagner's prowess with the old ball could push his claims. Boult took 0-45 off nine overs.
Otago offspinner Craig impressed with 3-17 off nine in helpful conditions, before sitting out day two to rest a tight quadricep as a precaution.
There was one less headache for the tourists with news that offspinner Sunil Narine will miss all three tests.
Narine, who has 18 wickets from three tests against New Zealand, opted to play for Kolkata in the IPL final and miss today's deadline for arrival at the West Indies' training camp.
West Indies director of cricket Richard Pybus confirmed Narine wouldn't be considered, which leaves Sulieman Benn and Shane Shillingford as the hosts' likely two spinners. The latter was cleared after being sidelined from the Hamilton test in December due to a suspect action.
❏ Guyana has been stripped of its hosting status for the third test, starting on June 27. A new venue will be confirmed tomorrow, with Barbados and Dominica likely candidates. In announcing the shift, the West Indies board said it disagreed with the Cricket Administration Bill that was passed by the government of Guyana.
HOW THEY LINE UP West Indies test squad: Denesh Ramdin (captain), Chris Gayle, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Sulieman Benn, Shane Shillingford, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor.
The Dominion Post