After the elation and hangovers of Wellington, this was the jolt New Zealand's cricketers needed.
Test series wins are not meant to be easy and this one will now be a tough scrap against a spin-heavy West Indies, after the tourists punished New Zealand slipups and showed backbone to be 289-6 after day one of the third test.
The prolific Shivnarine Chanderpaul resumes today on 94, just four short of overtaking Allan Border as the world's sixth-highest test runscorer, and six short of his 29th test century.
Without his intervention and a 200-run stand with a counter-attacking Denesh Ramdin (107), the series would have moved fast into non-event status with the hosts already 1-0 up.
After West Indies lost 4-9 in 34 balls - one to an abysmal shot from Marlon Samuels - they slumped to 86-5. The tourists looked down and out, but New Zealand's bowlers were flattered.
"We might have been a little ahead of ourselves from the last one," all-rounder Corey Anderson said.
"Obviously we thought when they were 90-5 that things might happen as fast as they did in Wellington, but they didn't and we've got to peg it back a bit."
Whether it was collective weariness from the first two tests, or the afterglow of a comfortable victory and two bonus days at home, this wasn't New Zealand's best work after they won the toss and sent West Indies in.
The catching was below-par in Dunedin, outstanding in Wellington, and sloppy at Seddon Park. Three went down between two usually outstanding grabbers, Kane Williamson and Tim Southee.
Williamson's miss of Ramdin on 57, off Ish Sodhi, cost another 50 runs but the West Indies gloveman fell to golden arm Anderson three overs from stumps.
Ramdin clouted 18 boundaries in his 148-ball knock, his fourth test century, while Chanderpaul was the immovable wall and offered no chances.
Anderson, whose 3-25 made him the most successful bowler, felt New Zealand still had the upper hand on a dry surface far more friendly than the Basin.
"We're still in a good position and it's a good cricket wicket. We won the toss and knew we had to bowl in good areas and we got a bit lost during that middle session and they capitalised," Anderson said.
Bowler of the moment Trent Boult rocketed to 10th in the world test bowling rankings after his 10-wicket heroics in Wellington. Yesterday he sent down 19 wicketless overs where it didn't swing or zip like it did a week previous.
Southee moved to 96 test wickets and looked the most likely, while Sodhi had a day to forget and dropped short too often, even if he produced a few gems among them.
With the second new ball only 10 overs old, New Zealand should back themselves to run through the West Indies tail. Then they need to top 400 in their first innings for a fifth successive time and build a lead, mindful of the threat spinner Sunil Narine has posed them before.
With the pitch likely to favour spin, the tourists also have left-armer Veerasammy Permaul for one last roll of the dice.
The toss was a head-scratcher after McCullum continued the trend of the last 10 tests in New Zealand where the winning skipper has bowled first.
He said on test eve the overhead conditions would determine his decision. The sun shone, visiting skipper Darren Sammy called incorrectly but McCullum predicted enough swing and seam for his in-form pacemen.
It would have been preferable to see New Zealand try to bat the tourists out of the series.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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