Black Caps out to break drought at Basin Reserve
Tradition dictates after a Basin Reserve test win that New Zealand's bowlers take a limousine ride to Mt Victoria to toast their success.
In normal circumstances the bubbly would already be on ice after a quick glance at the Basin sward which had both captains declaring they would bowl first in today's second test.
New Zealand are, rightly, dominant favourites to beat West Indies on the strength of their superior pace attack with more lush and bouncy real estate to work with than Dunedin. But the edginess among the home side continues; 10 winless tests in 2013, and seven straight at the Basin since their last victory here, against Bangladesh in 2008. Only two New Zealand sides have gone through 10-plus tests in a calendar year without winning: in 1965 and 1995.
Droughts always have an end point, and what better surface to break it on, than one that looked to have been transplanted from an Amazon rainforest on Monday.
Paceman Trent Boult concurs. The left-armer who put in a Herculean effort in Dunedin, taking 5-121 off 53 overs in back-to-back innings, probably thought this test cricket lark was easy when he won his first two, in Hobart against Australia and Napier against Zimbabwe.
He noted that in 16 tests since, his only victory was in Colombo against Sri Lanka in November 2012. That traditional bowlers' celebration in Wellington, and the team victory song which is delivered with gusto on the test pitch with the players linking in a circle, is fast taking on mythical status.
"That's something very special that comes with the test wins. The boys are always eager to sing that, and there's a handful of guys in the group who haven't yet. That's huge motivation for us," Boult said.
Hamish Rutherford, Corey Anderson, Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner would agree.
The coin toss will be more eagerly awaited than usual around 10am.
Basin pitches never seam around as much as expected, but with some moisture and a hard surface the red Kookaburra should fly through and make life uncomfortable for both sets of openers.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum arrived at his press conference with pads still on after a net with batting coach Craig McMillan. Having eased the pressure with a Dunedin century, McCullum bemoaned some focus on the negatives of the nailbiting draw, where New Zealand were 33 runs short with six wickets in hand when the rain came.
"We're playing good cricket, wins will come at some point. It'd be nice if we had more support rather than this scrutiny but that's how it is at times," McCullum said.
He noted the pitch was the greenest in recent memory but implored his bowlers to not go searching and keep it full. If the pacemen back up strongly from their Dunedin exertions and the fielders hold their catches, then New Zealand will be hard to beat. Ross Taylor is at the peak of his batting powers and Kane Williamson's return from a fractured thumb adds further steel.
Fine weather is forecast for much of the test, aside from scattered weekend showers.
McCullum confirmed legspinner Ish Sodhi would play, leaving the only question over the final pace bowling spot. Neil Wagner has the edge over Doug Bracewell and deserves another go.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy ruled out bringing in Sunil Narine's spin and hinted at an unchanged lineup after he bowled and passed a fitness test on his gluteal injury. Offspinner Shane Shillingford awaits an independent assessment of his action, which must arrive by Friday, but is cleared to play.
After their match-saving efforts in Dunedin, led by Darren Bravo's 218, Sammy wasn't about to concede.
"I guess they [New Zealand] will come back even harder. The difference is that we have seen what they have.
"They put a lot of pressure on us and we were good enough to respond. I think they were playing their best cricket and yet still they didn't get the victory they deserved. We are keen to put pressure on them."