New Zealand and West Indies are two of the weaker sides in Test cricket, and hence their contests do not generate much excitement. But, when the two sides battle, the Kiwis have often managed to hold the upper hand. West Indies had a slight edge when the current series began since they were playing host to New Zealand. But, in a matter of four days, New Zealand have proved how superior they are even in such conditions. West Indies can still fight back in the series, but it would be very difficult considering the manner in which New Zealand dominated them in the first Test.
In both the batting and bowling department, New Zealand outshone the hosts. As for their fielding, they were expectedly superior. Their first-innings batting set up the match perfectly for New Zealand. When a team scores 500 plus in their first innings, it is very difficult for the opponents to come back. This is why Kiwis’ batting in the first innings was extremely impressive. There were so many brilliant performances from New Zealand on the opening two days, West Indies just did not get any chance to recover.
Kane Williamson once again showed his class with a fluent century. Jimmy Neesham built his reputation further as a top lower order batsman, compiling his second century in as many Tests. When your number six is getting hundreds consistently, it is a healthy sign for the team, and means that he can be depended upon when the team loses some early wickets. Neesham can also chip in with the ball, which makes a greater asset to the team. Opener Tom Latham and wicket-keeper BJ Watling also proved that they are extremely handy batsmen for their side. In fact, except Peter Fulton and skipper Brendon McCullum nobody failed in the first innings.
New Zealand’s bowling was as impressive as their batting. Debutant Mark Craig stood out with his probing off spinners. West Indies aren’t great players of slow bowling, yet nothing can be taken away from the manner in which Craig spun a web around the hapless hosts. While Craig claimed four wickets in each innings, to deservedly win the man of the match, he was equally effective against top and lower order batsmen, which is a rare quality for a bowler. New Zealand would surely look to groom him as the side’s next lead spinner.
The contribution of Tim Southee was also crucial to the win. In recent matches, the fast bowler has developed a tendency of picking up key wickets in Test matches, and his performance was no different against West Indies. Leg spinner Ish Sodhi also chipped in with a few wickets to keep the team on top. The only time New Zealand looked out of sorts in the Test was when they lost quick wickets in their second innings to Jerome Taylor. But, the Test was firmly in their grasp by then, and they deservedly went on to clinch the Test.
--By A Cricket Analyst