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Three days. Eighteen wickets required. A mountain of runs to play with.
It all seems elementary for New Zealand in the first test against West Indies after another day of dominance in Dunedin, highlighted by Ross Taylor's imperious 217 not out.
But there must be the obligatory note of caution. Winning test matches hasn't been so easy this past year, and a flattening pitch and the broad bat of Shivnarine Chanderpaul still must be conquered when the West Indies resume today on 67-2 in reply to New Zealand's mammoth 609-9 declared.
New Zealand's three other 600-plus totals in test cricket have all ended in draws, against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 1991, India in Mohali in 2003 and India in Napier in 2009.
This winning drought of nine tests in 2013 needs to be broken, fast, so everyone can move on. It's over a year since New Zealand's previous victory in Colombo, when Taylor was man of the match, and don't the home side know it. They showed plenty against England last summer but couldn't drive in the final nail, leaving them still languishing eighth in the world.
"Everybody is fizzing for it. We really want to win a test, win the series, everybody is working hard and we're very pumped," said fast bowler Neil Wagner, who had the West Indies top order hopping around with Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
New Zealand probably would have won at the same venue against England in March but for long rain delays. This pitch offers more for the pacemen and seemed to quicken up yesterday, as Darren Bravo (37 not out) will attest after he was clanged on the helmet by Boult, and fended off a similar offering from Wagner.
"One thing about the Windies is they like to be positive. They do come at you quite hard so they're always going to give us a chance," Wagner said.
"We just have to keep smashing the deck as hard as we can and see what we get out of it. We're in a very good position and getting two or three quick wickets in the morning will set us up."
Boult was the pick of New Zealand's 24 overs at the West Indies top order in the afternoon sun. He nicked out opener Kirk Edwards, who owed his spot to Chris Gayle's injured hamstring and Kraigg Brathwaite's visa issues.
Kieran Powell gifted his wicket to Southee with a loose swipe, then Bravo would have been snared from leg-spinner Ish Sodhi's second ball if skipper Brendon McCullum had installed a silly point. Sodhi will also come into play if the pitch offers more variable bounce.
Samuels will resume with Bravo today, with Chanderpaul to follow, still averaging more than 50 in his 151st test.
After sharing day one with McCullum (113), day two belonged to Taylor alone as he equalled his highest first-class score and raced past his previous test best of 154.
Taylor was imperious and his only blemish was on 131 when he inside edged a Shane Shillingford delivery to Powell who dropped the chance at short leg. Most of his 23 boundaries came through the off side via his trademark savage cover drives and cuts, as he batted a tick over eight hours and faced 319 balls.
After adding 195 with McCullum, New Zealand's highest fourth-wicket stand against the West Indies, Taylor shared stands of 84 with BJ Watling, 76 with Sodhi and 61 with Wagner who hit out.
The West Indies bowled slightly better than day one but were nearly dead men walking when the declaration came. Captain Darren Sammy didn't bowl after lunch due to a gluteal injury, the fielding got shabby including an awful boundary effort from Narsingh Deonarine, while Tino Best kept charging in and was the pick with 3-148 off 34.1 overs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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