Williamson ton leads Black Caps in Windies test
New Zealand adhered neatly to their pre-match script as the familiar suspects helped put them in control of the first cricket test against West Indies at Kingston, Jamaica.
Led by Kane Williamson's sixth test century and a gritty 83 by opener Tom Latham in his third test innings, the tourists posted 240-2 at stumps on day one on the Sabina Park desert.
After captain Brendon McCullum had a rare and crucial victory at an important coin toss, the tourists now eyed their benchmark first innings total of 450-plus, with Ross Taylor already warming to his task.
He would resume tomorrow 34 not out, looking to pick up the pace alongside Williamson (105 not out), his regular partner in crime during a golden summer with the bat at home.
How New Zealand would transfer their runfests against West Indies and India to the spin-friendly Caribbean was the big question.
They answered it emphatically, even if their early methods of survival rather than scoring left at least one home fan dozing peacefully in the stands, having hoped for some Chris Gayle fireworks in celebrating his 100th test.
Williamson came off the best preparation, a few first-class knocks for Yorkshire, and has the superior technique against spin. He and Latham added a vital 165 for the second wicket to get the tourists on the front foot.
Playing late, cutting and sweeping when needed, then advancing to tall-left-armer Sulieman Benn when he flighted up, it was another clinic as the pitch offered sluggish turn and occasional deliveries that caused headaches.
Williamson spent nearly an hour on 93 in the gathering gloom, then five minutes before stumps cut Benn behind point for four, raising three figures off 258 balls with his 11th boundary.
Batting first was the only option for both sides on a wicket block resembling a Montego Bay beach with stumps jutting from each end.
It prompted New Zealand to hand off-spinner Mark Craig a test debut alongside Ish Sodhi, and omit the unlucky Neil Wagner. All-rounder Jimmy Neesham also earned his second test start with Corey Anderson ruled out with a neck injury.
While Latham rode his luck and gritted his teeth, justifying his selection ahead of incumbent Hamish Rutherford, senior man Peter Fulton's wretched test run continued.
He lasted 19 balls before the impressive Jerome Taylor, playing his first test since November 2009, got one to move away and a creasebound Fulton sparred an edge.
Fulton was lucky to retain his spot after a lean home summer but has the luxury of minimal contenders banging down the door, and status as a valued leader in the side. That will only take him so far, though, if the runs don't start flowing soon.
Latham deserved his spot after a promising debut against India, and had a stroke of luck that all batsmen need. He survived an lbw challenge on 14, then successfully challenged an incorrect bat-pad decision on 26. The big break came on 39 when he edged Taylor to gully, but replays showed a tiny no ball and he reversed his pavilion trudge.
He raised his maiden 50 off 126 balls to go with Williamson's off 153 balls as the run rate finally ticked past two an over on the slow outfield.
Latham employed the sweep effectively to Shane Shillingford's offspin and strode confidently into the 80s. But Shillingford, who got the odd one to rip menacingly, enticed a leading edge and Latham's luck had run out.
''We're in a pretty good position and being only two down is the bonus. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and push home our advantage,'' Latham said.
''We talked a lot about playing a lot of spin and I think we played the spinners really well. We kept denying them and they bowled in pretty good areas. We didn't get away from them run rate wise but the partnership me and Kane had was quite crucial to set up the day.''
Latham kicked himself for not carrying on to three figures, although he acknowledged his early good fortune.
''You need a little bit of luck now and again. It would have been nice to push on and get a hundred. Hats off to Kane, that hundred was outstanding and him being not out overnight was even better for the team.
''It's disappointing and I gave myself a pretty good chance to get that milestone. That's cricket, there's going to be more opportunities, hopefully, and if I can keep moving in the right direction like I did today then that century isn't too far away.''
The West Indies bowling was handy, but rarely unplayable. Taylor and fellow paceman Kemar Roach were too short early on and extracted nothing from the surface, where the New Zealand pacemen will need to be full and hope it swings.
There was turn throughout for the spinners and Shillingford was the most dangerous, but less of a threat without his doosra, banned by the ICC after he was called for an illegal action in December.
Meanwhile, Gayle stood at slip all day wondering what might have been had his skipper Denesh Ramdin won the toss.
He was centre of attention before play as a variety of mementos were presented, including one from McCullum which drew a trademark smile, and a hug from the hometown hero.