Thanks to more West Indies generosity than necessary, New Zealand felt they dodged a few grenades on day one at the Basin Reserve.
Now, in similar circumstances to a week previous in Dunedin, comes the chance to fire back some of their own in the second cricket test and push for that elusive victory. Already in credit at 307-6 after being sent in, anything in the range of 380 will be a competitive total on a pitch that offered enough for the quicks and should continue for at least another day.
"They did bowl a touch fuller but when you're inserted on a greenish wicket, we'll take six for 300 most days of the week," New Zealand centurymaker Ross Taylor said.
"Most balls did something. I wouldn't say it was nipping round corners but the odd ball kept you honest."
With an extra day's rest after their Dunedin slog, that should be enough to keep new ball duo Tim Southee and Trent Boult interested, especially if they can generate swing and utilise the extra zing and bounce on offer. This pitch can flatten out fast, though, so plenty of hard toil beckons.
Taylor summed up another head-scratching day in this series where he crafted 129, his 10th test century after being dropped on nought. Clinical and ruthless as ever, Taylor pounced on some loose offerings and endured a body blow or two in one intense over from Shannon Gabriel.
Had Kirk Edwards held the Taylor chance at third slip, off Tino Best, then the hosts were 26-3 with skipper Brendon McCullum heading out to face the music.
Instead, Taylor's drive speared to the third man boundary and he was away, never to give the tourists another look-in until some Keystone Cops moments when he was in the 120s and beginning to cramp up.
West Indies dropped four catches and their quicks missed their chance, again. It didn't go as badly awry as Dunedin day one, but again the tourists' lack of bowling depth showed.
Without Kemar Roach (shoulder), Ravi Rampaul (fitness issues) and Fidel Edwards (out of favour), there isn't a lot left to make hay from favourable grass.
Captain Darren Sammy beamed on winning the toss but it soon became a grimace. Gabriel is an imposing figure and improved markedly, emerging as the pick of the bowlers even if he waited until his 17th over to claim his first wicket when Taylor holed out to deep point. Best looked to be struggling with injury, after crashing into the advertising hoardings, and was good and bad in equal measure, while Sammy at 120kmh was battling the gluteal strain he picked up in Dunedin. It was left to the spinners to bowl in tandem and kill time for the second new ball.
New Zealand bounced back well. Peter Fulton looked out first ball before he benefited from the first use of Real-time Snicko, and umpire Paul Reiffel's lbw decision was overturned. Fulton and opening partner Hamish Rutherford soon nicked out, the latter not utilising his second life after a slips fumble.
Kane Williamson (45) looked even more composed than Taylor on return from a fractured finger, until he sparred at one nipping away.
There were other useful contributions that were thrown away too soon. McCullum (37) looked set to build another dominant stand with Taylor but departed too softly, spooning the spin of Shane Shillingford to short mid-on.
Taylor and Corey Anderson (38) added another 68 before Anderson got a fine edge on the sweep, leaving the senior man to cruise to three figures off 204 balls.
It wasn't typical dominant Taylor, but it was a lesson in composure and keeping the ball on the turf. The slog-sweep appears to almost have vanished against the red ball; instead he waited until the 80s to go aerial, over mid-on from Narsingh Deonarine's spin.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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