Black Caps rue missed chances at Bridgetown
Jimmy Neesham was kicking the turf at missed opportunities for himself and New Zealand on day one at Bridgetown.
With history beckoning, notably their second test series win in the Caribbean, the Black Caps cobbled together a sub-par first innings of 293 after skipper Brendon McCullum won the toss. How good, or bad, this was on a dry, well-worn day one pitch will only be known when the West Indies complete their reply, but the tourists still missed their chance to take a stranglehold on the test at the scene of their historic victory in 2002.
"We're probably a bit short. Anywhere north of 320-330 would have been a very good effort. To fall 20-30 short is a bit disappointing, but there's still a lot in it for the bowlers," said Neesham, who topscored with 78 off 91 balls.
"It was a pretty good wicket with a little bit of turn and bounce for the spinners. Possibly a bit slow for the seamers but as it dries out it will hopefully quicken up a bit. It's a bit dry on top and hopefully it will break up a bit on day four and five."
After their day one collapse of 7-60 in better batting conditions in Trinidad, this one was worth 5-92 in a poor middle session.
It was a mixed bag from New Zealand's batsmen after McCullum called correctly for the third time in as many tests. Their blueprint is to try and top 450 in their first innings and control the game from there, but they were always playing catchup.
Paceman Kemar Roach (4-61) did the early damage with a double strike, continuing Hamish Rutherford's misery and trapping the in-form Tom Latham in front with one that skidded on. Then giant left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn snared 5-93 with help from a pitch that could mean tricky times for batsmen in the second half of the test.
Kane Williamson (43) and Ross Taylor (45) were well set but undone by good deliveries. Williamson was surprised by one from Benn that reared, while Taylor was squared up by a short one from Roach.
McCullum counter-attacked, hitting 31 off 30 balls including five fours for his highest score of the series. His dismissal was bizarre; trying to punch Benn into the on-side from one that turned wide of off stump, and skying a simple catch.
Neesham looked composed, standing tall and punching deliveries all around the ground. He arrived with a test average of 63.80, and looked set for his third century from seven innings as he blazed 10 fours and a big six off Jerome Taylor.
After adding 64 with Mark Craig for the eighth wicket, Neesham hesitated when pushing a regulation single and was run out by a whisker.
"Every time you get into the 60s and 70s you start looking at that [century] mark. It was a little bit disappointing, just a mix-up between me and Mark who called at the same time. There was a bit of miscommunication going on. I'm willing to take that on my shoulders, it was probably my call," he said.
Craig batted a tick under two hours for 46 not out, a second significant contribution in as many innings.
He was picked ahead of legspinner Ish Sodhi when paceman Neil Wagner was recalled, and looms as a crucial figure with the ball after his eight wickets on debut on a similar surface at Kingston.