Black Caps well-placed thanks to Williamson
An unbeaten Kane Williamson half-century left the third and deciding cricket test nicely poised, as New Zealand fought back against West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados.
With two days left in an absorbing series, locked at 1-1, New Zealand will resume tomorrow on 123-3, a lead of 99 at Kensington Oval.
For the first time in eight days of cricket, stretching back to their dominant first test win at Kingston, the Black Caps took a marginal points decision on day three to keep their hopes alive of a second series win in the Caribbean.
After Neil Wagner snared 4-64 to help dismiss the hosts for 317, Williamson was 58 not out at stumps alongside captain Brendon McCullum on 23, at the scene of their breakthrough test victory in 2002. West Indies still have their noses in front, but on a dry pitch that should deteriorate on the final two days, the Black Caps will hope to set the hosts at least 250 for victory which would be something to bowl at.
It looked shaky early on, as New Zealand trailed by 24 on the first innings. The opening partnership has provided huge headaches for New Zealand this tour. The first wicket stands were nine and nought at Kingston, 16 and nine at Port-of-Spain and 17 and one at Bridgetown.
This time it was the in-form Tom Latham who had a rare lapse, an ambitious pull shot to Kemar Roach, and skied a simple catch without scoring.
Hamish Rutherford was fighting for his test career after three single figure scores. He looked to have weathered the early storm, but on 19 was anchored on the crease by Roach and nicked off in familiar fashion, leaving some hard thinking for coach Mike Hesson before their next test series against Pakistan in November.
Now well accustomed to arriving at the crease in the early overs, Kane Williamson dug in again as New Zealand's batting anchor. He survived a big let-off on 10 when he nicked Roach to the right of an unmoved Denesh Ramdin, but soldiered on to his 14th test half-century.
Debutant Jason Holder caused immediate problems as the New Zealand innings threatened to slide off the rails. Ross Taylor departed cheaply when he nibbled at Holder's first delivery, then McCullum survived a huge lbw shout, third ball. Holder was adamant and West Indies challenged umpire Ian Gould's not out decision, but the skipper survived when replays showed the ball striking marginally outside off stump.
It was hard work for McCullum who has struggled throughout the series. He looked scratchy again, survived another Holder lbw shout and was dropped at bat-pad off Shane Shillingford's offspin, but scrapped hard in the gathering gloom to continue into tomorrow.
New Zealand clawed their way back, thanks to the hard toil of Wagner in his first appearance of the series.
The left-arm paceman took 4-64 off 27 overs, seven of them maidens as he applied the brakes to the scoring rate with West Indies on target for a significant first innings lead.
The hosts had a long tail, having stacked their side with five specialist bowlers. A Trent Boult double strike with the second new ball, and two late thunderbolts from Jimmy Neesham, polished off the innings and kept New Zealand in the contest.
Much like the tourists, several West Indies batsmen got starts but didn't capitalise, with opener Kraigg Brathwaite's 68 their top score.
After rain ruined much of day two, West Indies resumed in the box seat at 169-2, trailing by 124.
Wagner mixed it up intelligently, enticing Darren Bravo with a slower, wider delivery then hurrying up Shivnarine Chanderpaul with a fast, short ball that he touched down the leg side. It was well held by a tumbling wicketkeeper BJ Watling who snared three catches for the innings including a one-handed gem to remove Kemar Roach.
Scores Saturday at stumps on the third day of the third test between the West Indies and New Zealand at Kensington Oval:
New Zealand 293 (Jimmy Neesham 78; Sulieman Benn 5-93, Kemar Roach 4-61) and 123-3 (Kane Williamson 58 not out; Kemar Roach 2-30) vs. West Indies 317 (Kraigg Brathwaite 68, Kirk Edwards 58; Neil Wagner 4-64, Jimmy Neesham 2-12)