Black Caps hope Narine's inexperience will tell
A change in format and Sunil Narine's inexperience at test level are positives New Zealand are forced to cling to after their Caribbean horrors with the white ball.
The tourists move to Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua for the next fortnight, for a warmup game then the first test, after losing six of their seven limited-overs matches to the West Indies.
Inadequacies against spin bowling, a familiar refrain with New Zealand batsmen, will follow them to North Sound, where more spin-friendly conditions beckon and coach John Wright must conjure some inspiration in the nets.
Narine, 24, was clearly player of the ODI series, which West Indies won 4-1, after taking 5-27 in St Kitts yesterday. Chasing a gettable 242, New Zealand were dismissed for 221, with Kane Williamson's 69 the best contribution.
The Trinidadian's series figures of 13 wickets at 11.23 were remarkable. In his only test, he bowled a wicketless 15 overs in Birmingham in June, but in seven first-class matches has 34 wickets at 13.94.
New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor hailed Narine as the difference between the sides but noted he was "very new to the test game".
"Test-match cricket is totally different. I'm sure you can crowd the bat but you don't actually have to go after Narine.
"When he's at his best is when batsmen have to attack him. It's finding ways of getting off strike and not being under pressure."
Narine's big wicket yesterday was that of Brendon McCullum, who had crafted a run-a-ball 33, but was fooled by the one that turned away. The batsmen have largely struggled to pick Narine's "other-one".
From a test viewpoint, New Zealand's batsmen are some runs short. Taylor showed his readiness with 110 on Sunday and B J Watling batted superbly in three innings before suffering a quadricep strain, which has him in doubt for the first test.
But the struggles of test frontliners McCullum (21.50), Martin Guptill (19.20), Daniel Flynn (15.25) and Dean Brownlie (one run from one innings) leave them needing to make hay in Saturday's three-day warmup match.
Test selection will be a headache for Taylor and Wright. If they want to play two spinners, Daniel Vettori and Tarun Nethula, they might have to punt on Watling batting six and keeping wicket, if fit. That would mean Brownlie and Kruger van Wyk miss out, but enables them to play three pacemen: Chris Martin, Doug Bracewell and either Trent Boult or newcomer Neil Wagner - a proven exponent of reverse swing.
Tim Southee, a late recall for the injured Mark Gillespie in the test squad, was New Zealand's best bowler for the series with 10 wickets at 19.60, including Chris Gayle twice, early in his innings. He took 3-37 yesterday while Kyle Mills took 3-40, taking him past Chris Harris as New Zealand's second highest ODI wicket-taker with 205.
Taylor said they were expecting low and slow pitches, but had not adjusted quickly enough.
"The last two games were similar; we got off to a good start with the ball and our last 15 overs with bat and ball is where we've lost the match.
“We've bowled well the majority of the time with the new ball. On these wickets the ball does scuff up and soften up so we're going to have to learn to bowl with the older ball in the test matches."
The Dominion Post