Time for a century from opener Tom Latham
It's all on the line in Friday's third test in Barbados after New Zealand let West Indies back into the series. MARK GEENTY looks at five things that need to happen for the tourists to repeat their 2002 Caribbean series victory.
Find an opener: It's remarkable that Tom Latham has excelled yet opener remains the most troublesome spot in New Zealand's batting order. Hamish Rutherford did little in Port-of-Spain to suggest he's not in a similar slump to the axed Peter Fulton. The lack of options might give Rutherford one last chance in Barbados, but there must be serious reservations and it could demand a stop-gap, either Corey Anderson or a one-off promotion for BJ Watling or Brendon McCullum in a ‘couldn't do any worse' scenario.
A big century: New Zealand's batting was a feature of their home summer success, and their win at Kingston, but Port-of-Spain was the first time in eight tests stretching back to Bangladesh in October that no one in the top-six had raised their bat for a hundred. If there's any minor criticism of Latham, who scored dual Plunket Shield double-centuries last summer, it's that he needs to go big after three successive scores between 70 and 90. Ross Taylor has got starts but not kicked on in the ruthless fashion of the home summer, and threw his wicket away in the second innings when well set.
More from the skipper: Whether it's the distraction of being outed as giving evidence in the match-fixing saga, his late Caribbean arrival due to the birth of his third child, or a diet of Indian Premier League, it's not the same Brendon McCullum from his epic triple-century against India in February. In four innings he's scored 31 runs and took one unnecessarily for the team in shuffling up to open for an ill Rutherford on Thursday. We've seen McCullum snap out of form slumps before, without warning, and his team desperately need that here with a coveted away series win on the line.
Play Wagner: Playing two spinners at Kingston worked a treat on a turning pitch, but the lack of a genuine third seamer hurt New Zealand in Trinidad after some sharp opening spells from Tim Southee and Trent Boult. The West Indies batsmen targeted Jimmy Neesham and spinners Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi and the hosts took charge in a hurry. Neil Wagner helped win a test against India in Auckland and will keep charging in with the old ball and generate reverse swing. It's a toss-up which spinner misses out, but Craig is perhaps worth persevering with over young Sodhi. Barbados has been spin-friendly in the past year but generally has enough pace to keep the quicks interested.
Southee finds the edges: New Zealand's pace spearhead moved into the world's top-five test bowlers with his six-wicket haul at Kingston, and went past the bat plenty of times at Queen's Park Oval for a solitary first innings scalp in 30 overs. His frustration boiled over when he prolonged a heated verbal clash with batsman Kirk Edwards and was relieved of 30 percent of his match fee, around $2500, by match referee Chris Broad. If the ball swings in the Bridgetown sea breeze and there's pace in the wicket then Southee and Boult will be in the game, and a bag of wickets doesn't seem far off for Southee, whose line to the West Indies batsmen has been impeccable.
Sunday Star Times