ICC probe takes shine off top day in Dunedin

Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
Ish Sodhi
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NICE WORK: Ish Sodhi, left, of New Zealand celebrates taking the wicket of Kirk Edwards.

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Needless to say, as New Zealand's cricketers assumed their most dominant position in recent memory, a pall was cast across University Oval.

Chris Cairns, on a break from television commentary duties, sat alone on a plastic chair beside the northern sightscreen as Tim Southee and Trent Boult ripped through the West Indies middle order.

He'd caused similar carnage himself against the tourists 14 years previous, but his mind was on other things in the Dunedin afternoon sun. Cairns looked the loneliest man in the world.

On his smart phone, Cairns had just read his name on a British website, linked with an International Cricket Council investigation into alleged matchfixing, and all eyes at the ground were on him.

He politely and calmly batted away several reporters' questions; then it became too intense and he slipped away, bound for home in Auckland, as attention finally switched to what was happening in the centre.

It is Murphy's law with this New Zealand team. As soon as there is something to savour, a cloud somehow looms. Still it was worth watching as Southee and Boult bared their teeth, taking seven wickets between them, as the West Indies were skittled for 213 in 62.1 overs on day three.

Then came the tourists' best period of the match as the pitch stopped offering the disconcerting bounce it had in the morning. Darren Bravo (72) and Marlon Samuels (17) will resume today on 168-2, following on and still trailing by 228 runs.

"There were a few conversations going around [about Cairns] but it is out of our hands, there's nothing we can do about it," Southee said.

"Once we got to the ground we got our game faces on and concentrated on the job in hand."

The first innings lead of 396 was New Zealand's second-highest in test history, after the 444 against Zimbabwe in January 2012. Most teams don't enforce the follow-on these days in tests but Southee said it was a no-brainer, given their lead, a light first innings workload and the time left.

With fine weather forecast to continue the entire test, there's still two days for New Zealand to capture eight more West Indies wickets on an ever-flattening pitch, which evoked memories of England bunny Steve Finn's defiance in March.

By rights their first test victory of 2013 should register later today, barring another remarkable rearguard action from the ageless Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who topped 11,000 test runs with his first innings 76.

"It's going to be tough work, but Ish [Sodhi] is really coming into his own. Especially [last night], he's bowling great," Southee said. "Hopefully we can come in short busts around him and we can pick up the eight wickets."

Southee (4-52) and Boult (3-40) snared six of their wickets to edges. The seventh was the prized scalp of Chanderpaul who Boult clanged on the helmet early on. Boult then fooled him into not offering a shot and umpire Paul Reiffel's lbw decision was backed by the decision review system which showed the ball just clipping the off bail.

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New Zealand found it tougher with the DRS in the second innings and lost both their challenges before stumps.

A pained Bravo looked to be caught off the wrist on 44 but there was enough doubt, then Samuels survived a Sodhi googly that replays showed was just missing leg.

"From where we were standing it looks like it got him [Bravo] on the wristband of the glove which is technically out. It was a tough one," said Southee.

Sodhi was attacked by Chanderpaul in the first innings and Kirk Edwards in the second, but produced lovely variations. His quicker delivery trapped Edwards (59) to break a 117-run stand with Bravo, and with his confidence boosted and the pitch drying out he will be captain Brendon McCullum's key foil for the pacemen today.

- Fairfax Media

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