Black Caps claim rare Windies series win
New Zealand's golden seven-month period of test cricket continued today when they beat West Indies by 53 runs in the third test at Bridgetown, Barbados, to clinch the series 2-1.
The victory came 12 years after New Zealand's breakthrough test series win in the West Indies and was the Black Caps' third successive series victory after toppling the West Indies and India at home during the New Zealand summer.
Today's win ensured the historic Kensington Oval a special place in New Zealand cricket history, as it was the site of the Black Caps' initial Caribbean series victory in 2002. Remarkably, this was New Zealand's first away series win against a top-eight side since then, banishing a horror recent record away from home.
New Zealand set West Indies 308 to win but the hosts never looked a chance as the visiting bowlers hunted as a pack, with the old firm Tim Southee (3-28) and Trent Boult (3-49) setting the tone in knocking over the hosts' top order.
From a shaky 144-7, a pesky 75-run stand for the eighth wicket between Jason Holder and Shane Shillingford offered hope for the West Indies. But off-spinner Mark Craig's dream debut series continued when he skittled debutant Holder (52) with one that kept low and it was a matter of time.
Boult trapped West Indies No 11 Jerome Taylor lbw with a cracking yorker with the second new ball to dismiss them for 254 in the 83rd over, 13 overs short of the close.
It ended an absorbing, seesawing series in which New Zealand dominated at Kingston for their second test victory in the Caribbean, then West Indies hit back by seizing control of game two at Port-of-Spain.
The hosts also looked to have a stranglehold on this deciding test when dismissing New Zealand for 293 in their first innings, before a four-wicket haul from Neil Wagner and a test best 161 not out from Kane Williamson grabbed back the initiative.
Williamson was named man of the match and man of the series, in which he scored 413 runs at an average of 82.6. McCullum paid tribute to his key performers.
"We're really thrilled; we've had some outstanding performances and I'm sure we'll celebrate accordingly tonight," McCullum said.
"Tom Latham's had a very good series and Mark Craig and Jimmy Neesham stood up as well. Kane Williamson, the way he applied himself in these conditions he showed what a talent he is and how valuable he is to our side.
''But I can't go past the fast bowlers as well and their efforts overseas; I think they [Southee and Boult] are the highest wicket-takers away from home as a duo. To take wickets on these sorts of pitches is testament to their character."
The skipper had a lean series with the bat, scoring 87 runs at 14.50, but again showed his nous and leadership on the final day with decisive bowling changes and shrewd field settings with his close catchers.
"It's important you enjoy other people's successes and remove yourself from your own game and keep giving to the team. I love these boys and we've achieved some special things over the last little while and we're starting to head in some decent places.
''This series is groundbreaking for this group, we're very proud of what we've achieved and I could think of worse places than Barbados to celebrate it."
Overnight, McCullum faced a tricky decision as to whether he had enough runs to declare with New Zealand on 331-7, a lead of 308.
He gambled on a declaration at the start of the day's play, leaving West Indies a chance at victory, requiring a tick over three runs per over.
There was rain in the air too and he was mindful that his bowlers needed enough time to take 10 wickets on a dry pitch offering variable bounce.
The early declaration paid off, despite two rain breaks making for anxious glances in the visitors' dressing room as the floodlights were turned on in the afternoon gloom.
The hosts were soon 31-3 as Boult removed Kraigg Brathwaite and Kirk Edwards, before Southee landed a big blow when the dangerous Chris Gayle chopped on an extravagant drive.
They needed Craig to get in the game in spin-friendly conditions and after 102 minutes of defiance from the veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the test continued to slide New Zealand's way.
In a crucial scalp, Craig (3-84) enticed Chanderpaul out of his crease with a well flighted delivery and BJ Watling completed the job. Remarkably, the West Indies' key batsman had never been stumped in 255 previous test innings.
Southee then struck twice in successive overs, breaking a pesky stand between Darren Bravo and skipper Denesh Ramdin. Bravo (40) departed in identical fashion to the first innings, edging a slower ball to gully, then Ramdin (29) was held sharply by Ross Taylor at a wide first slip.
When Craig removed Kemar Roach to a bat pad catch just before tea, New Zealand were on the march but casting anxious glances to the skies.
The tour wraps up with two Twenty20 internationals in Dominica on Sunday and Monday.