'Curve ball' Hamilton pitch has Windies smiling
MARK GEENTY IN HAMILTON
If Wellington was pitch perfect for New Zealand, then Seddon Park sounded them a distinctly bum note in the third cricket test.
The hosts seemed baffled and unimpressed while for the West Indies it looked like Christmas had arrived early as wily spinner Sunil Narine had the ball fizzing both ways as early as day two.
With Ross Taylor (56 not out) again shouldering the load, New Zealand resume today on 156-3 in reply to the West Indies' 367 and a decent scrap looms to close out a rare series win from 1-0 up.
Kane Williamson, who toiled three hours for 58 before being trapped in front by Narine, labelled the conditions a "curve ball" as the dry, grassy surface offered turn and bounce.
New Zealand batsmen and quality spin have never mixed well.
Of the 64 overs they faced, 45 were shared between Narine and recalled left-armer Veerasammy Permaul.
"Yeah, without a doubt [I'm surprised], hence why we bowled first. I've never really seen it spin like that [in Hamilton] but they're the cards we've been dealt," Williamson said.
"We need to turn up with a change of game plan as a batting unit to face a lot of spin on a wicket that's very much conducive to spin bowling."
He still felt the hosts were in a strong position, and crossed fingers that some morning dampness might quell the turn.
West Indies master batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who notched his 29th test century and moved past Allan Border's 11,174 tally to sixth on the test run-scoring list, couldn't hide his glee.
"You could say [we're surprised]," he beamed.
"I wish we had wickets as good as these in the Caribbean."
It wasn't a minefield, but quite how the pitch favoured the tourists so much remains a mystery.
Home advantage should count for something, especially after the dominance of the New Zealand pacemen in Wellington.
A sward more like the greentop served up at Seddon a decade ago against India, should have been the ticket against the confidence-sapped West Indies batsmen.
It's curator Andy Brown's first test pitch and he clearly played it safe.
Instead it played into the hands of the battered West Indies who dropped paceman Shannon Gabriel and punted on a two-spin attack.
Narine (2-43 off 22) took 12 wickets in two tests against New Zealand last year and was near unplayable in the last hour and Taylor did well to last.
Having survived a Narine lbw shout with a tiny inside edge on three, he joined Andrew Jones (513 against Sri Lanka in 1991) and Glenn Turner (403 against Australia in 1974) as the New Zealanders to top 400 runs in a three-test series.
Now Taylor and captain Brendon McCullum face a tough first session to try and push towards a lead that could be vital, especially if legspinner Ish Sodhi and Williamson can find similar pitch assistance.
It was painfully slow at times as New Zealand tried to score at a decent clip then went into survival mode.
Hamish Rutherford's poor run continued when he was brilliantly caught and bowled by skipper Darren Sammy, then Peter Fulton's vigil was ended by Narine's third ball, caught at leg slip.
Earlier, both sets of batsmen got another masterclass in patience and discipline from one of the best.
Poised on 94, Chanderpaul passed Border then marked his ton with a hefty dose of emotion as he leapt in the air, flourished his bat and kissed the pitch.
The 39-year-old offered no chances and judged the line to perfection with his distinctive front-on style.
Tim Southee was the pick again with 4-79 and 98 test wickets in all. New Zealand dropped their fourth catch of the innings, too, when Fulton bobbled Tino Best at first slip, off Corey Anderson.
Chanderpaul was unbeaten after Best slogged out, batting six hours for his 122 not out.
It was his 17th unbeaten test century, moving him past the great Sachin Tendulkar's record of 16.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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