Wellington: New Zealand were in touching distance of an innings win and series sweep over the West Indies on Sunday when bad light stopped play on the third day of the second Test.
The West Indies were 244-6 in their second innings at stumps - called early because of the light - still trailing New Zealand by 85 runs after being forced to follow on 329 behind.
West Indies captain Jason Holder was 60 not out and involved in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand with Joshua da Silva (25), which was worth 74 by stumps and frustrated New Zealand’s push to victory. The umpires offered the batsmen the light around 5.30pm local time as dark clouds gathered over the Basin Reserve and with no improvement in conditions, players were unable to return.
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Earlier, opener John Campbell reached his highest test score of 68, his second half-century, in an 89-run third-wicket partnership which provided a further obstacle to New Zealand’s push for victory.
The West Indies’ top order has shown little fortitude in the series so far and the tourists are yet to reach 250 in four innings. They were dismissed for 138 and 247 in reply to New Zealand’s 519-7 in the first test which they lost by an innings and 134 runs.
Campbell and Holder gave the tourists’ innings more backbone on Sunday, forcing New Zealand to return on the fourth day to claim a win which will lift them above England into third place in the World Test Championship. New Zealand may also be poised to claim the No. 1 test ranking for the first time in its history.
The key in the series so far has been the relentlessness of New Zealand’s four-pronged seam attack. Newcomer Kyle Jamieson, with his height and pace, has added a new dimension to the attack which revolves around Tim Southee, Trent Boult and the grafter Neil Wagner.
Jamieson took 5-34 in the West Indies first innings on Saturday, his second five-wicket bag in only his fourth test.
Southee wrapped up the innings after the West Indies resumed at 124-8 on Sunday, taking both wickets to finish with 5-32 as the tourists managed 131. That gave him 294 test wickets, leaving him poised to become the third New Zealander after Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori to take 300 wickets in tests.
Things were less easy in the second innings. The ball still swung in overcast conditions at the Basin Reserve but the West Indies were more resilient.
“I think these two (Holder and da Silva) have batted well,” Southee said. “They’ve played their shots as well as playing and missing a few times but they’ve hung in there. I think we’ve bowled well at times but haven’t been as consistent as we’d like. Obviously as the game goes on the pitch is going to flatten out a little bit and the ball gets older. There’s still a bit there that keeps everyone honest and I think if we can bang away in the right areas for long enough the next wicket will come and then we’re into the bowlers.”
Strong partnerships between Campbell and Brooks, Holder and da Silva were a positive sign for the West Indies, who so far have struggled in New Zealand conditions. Green pitches at the Basin Reserve and in the first test at Hamilton have tested the inexperienced touring lineup, unfamiliar in conditions when the ball can seam, swing and bounce all in the same match.
The West Indies’ best batting performance so far has come from Jermaine Blackwood who made a century in the second innings of the first test and 69 in the first innings in Wellington. He was out for 20 Sunday, hitting out and attempting to blunt the New Zealand attack.
“The captain is leading from the front,” Blackwood said. “He said this morning he wants to see some fight.
“Unfortunately most of our batsmen got out very cheaply, myself included. But as you can see now he and Joshua da Silva are batting beautifully and if they can show more dedication at the crease then we will see a decent partnership.”