New Zealand make poor start to third test
New Zealand squandered a royal chance to regain control of the test cricket series against West Indies, leaving their bowlers to try and haul them back into the decider.
Thanks to a counter-attacking 78 from Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand posted 293 in their first innings, a below par total after they opted to bat first in the third test at Bridgetown, Barbados.
West Indies took the day one honours and will resume tomorrow at Kensington Oval on 32-0 in reply, with Chris Gayle in an ominous mood. He opened his account with a booming straight six off Trent Boult, the 97th of his test career to move within three of Adam Gilchrist's world record.
Spinner Mark Craig was introduced in the eighth over and will be a key figure for the Black Caps in similar conditions to his eight-wicket haul on debut at Kingston.
Earlier, Craig (46 not out) provided vital backup to Neesham to revive a flatlining New Zealand innings. A five-wicket bag from giant left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who sparked a middle order collapse of 5-92, gave New Zealand the wobbles after captain Brendon McCullum won a third successive toss of the series.
Neesham and Craig added 64 for the eighth wicket to save New Zealand from embarrassment on a dry, bare Kensington Oval pitch that already looked to have plenty of wear. Benn (5-93) generated turn and bounce while paceman Kemar Roach (4-61) extracted sharp bounce with his effort ball.
Neesham looked poised for a third century in his fourth test match before a mix-up with Craig ended his defiant knock too soon.
He pushed into the off-side, both batsmen hesitated and Neesham was caught short at the bowler's end. He clouted 10 fours and a six but New Zealand needed plenty more after no one else could dig in for a long haul.
Craig survived two dropped chances by Benn and batted nearly two hours for his unbeaten knock, fresh from a fighting half-century in a losing cause in Trinidad.
The total was short of the average first innings total of 324 from the past six tests at Kensington Oval. The tourists would have targeted 450-plus so they have a mountain of work to do to wrest back the advantage they haven't held since the dominant first test win at Kingston.
Mirroring their day one collapse in the second test, New Zealand had a horror middle session as Benn removed the big wickets of Kane Williamson (43), Brendon McCullum (31) and BJ Watling (1), as well as snaring topscorer Ross Taylor (45) to a one-handed diving catch at gully, off Roach.
The latter started the rot by snaring both openers Tom Latham and Hamish Rutherford cheaply.
McCullum looked to have won a crucial toss on a pitch likely to turn and offer variable bounce. They recalled paceman Neil Wagner for spinner Ish Sodhi, while West Indies recalled spinner Shane Shillingford alongside Benn, and further beefed up their bowling by including the pace of Jason Holder for batsman Jermaine Blackwood.
Roach began to hit his straps after a long injury layoff before this series, and continued Rutherford's struggles. The opener faced 12 balls before lofting a drive to mid-on.
Latham's good run came to an end after he successfully challenged an lbw decision on 10. Two overs and four runs later he was trapped in front by Roach with one that straightened and skidded on.
New Zealand were still in reasonable shape at 95-2 at lunch before the carnage began.
The team's best three batsmen Williamson, Taylor and McCullum were all guilty of not kicking on and anchoring the innings after solid starts.
Williamson was nicked out by one that turned and bounced from Benn, then Taylor was squared up by one that reared from Roach and offered an edge.
McCullum had struggled for runs this series and counter-attacked, hitting Roach for three boundaries in five deliveries. He looked set, then departed bizarrely when he tried to whip a short ball through the on side and lobbed a simple catch.