Black Caps edge ahead of the West Indies
Just for a moment it looked a like a 0-0 Hamilton decider was distinctly on the cards.
New Zealand's bowling looked flat, as did the Basin Reserve pitch, rain was high in the Friday forecast and odds on a draw were shortening, as early as day two of the second test against West Indies.
It required some timely bowling changes and a partnership-breaker, and captain Brendon McCullum had both up his sleeve. At stumps, after a late flurry in the gathering gloom, West Indies were 158-4 in their first innings with Marlon Samuels racing along to 50 not out, still trailing New Zealand by 283.
Showers still loom large today, after 27 overs were lost on day two, but the weekend is forecast to be fine. The pitch is fast becoming another Basin belter, but with enough to keep those interested who bang it in and generate swing. New Zealand may need the entire five days but they've got their noses in front again, and just require a few more knockout punches to grab that elusive win.
Allrounder Corey Anderson scored a century in his second test, in Bangladesh, and holds a reputation as a golden arm. It was much needed as New Zealand's bowlers searched, got some early swing and bounce, but weren't in the right areas often enough and careered to the fence.
The big wickets were Darren Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Anderson had a hand in both. With just his fifth ball, the left-armer got one to shape away and Bravo, the Dunedin double-centurion, was gone for four.
He also enticed Kirk Edwards into a leading edge, then Trent Boult came back for one last crack.
Fourth ball of a new spell, he enticed Chanderpaul, the 11,000 test run man, to chase a wide one and Anderson latched on at point.
"I think Boulty said he didn't want a gully and put me in at short point so that's just one of those things that can come off one day and not on another. It was nice to see a plan come through," Anderson said.
McCullum wasn't overly happy with his bowlers but his changes did the trick and he kept attacking with a hefty cordon. Tim Southee switched to the RA Vance Stand end and struck with his third ball, trapping Kieran Powell lbw. Boult was again the pick and earlier looked to have nicked out Powell, judging by Real-time Snicko, but there was no decision review system challenge.
"I think it [the pitch] has flattened out pretty quickly. I don't think it's as green as what we thought it was going to be on that first day anyway," Anderson said.
"I think it's a pretty good track so we're going to have to bowl well in the morning to take these next six wickets and try to get into a position where we can win the game."
Anderson said 400 was their first innings target, so 441 for New Zealand after being sent in looked imposing.
The tail wagged strongly and gloveman BJ Watling was the anchor, notching his sixth test half-century and adding 58 for the final wicket with Boult, beating the New Zealand record against West Indies of 45, by Danny Morrison and Robert Kennedy in Barbados in 1996.
Southee cracked 21 off 14 before slogging out, then the man with the temperament and ability who could replace him at No 8, Ish Sodhi, looked composed again in scoring 27.
Boult (38 not out off 27) could also justify a move up the order as he took to Shane Shillingford, blasting one six that was parried over the rope by the unhappy Tino Best. The West Indies quick took 4-110 off 21 overs in a hugely mixed time, also dropping two outfield catches amid five the tourists put down in all.