cricket / reviews

Match Report, WI vs NZ, 1st Test – A Tale of Two Partnerships

* This match report was originally published on Backward Point, after the first test between the West Indies and New Zealand during the 2012 tour.

The West Indies have predictably continued their winning streak against New
Zealand. Game one of the two test series has ended with the hosts winning by a
comfortable nine wickets. The result was a fair one, while the Black Caps weren’t
awful, they were comprehensively outplayed by a team high on confidence.

This game can be summed up by the respective first innings opening partnership
for each team. The Black Caps went first, and Guptill and Flynn made the best of
day 1. It took a long time to dislodge either of them, with the first wicket falling
in the 39th over. In that time they compiled 97, and in the context of New Zealand
cricket, that is a pretty hefty opening stand.

Compare that to the West Indies. Powell and Gayle went big for their opening
partnership. They batted for 75.2 overs and put on 254, with both batsmen
making centuries. Gayle was fearsome, and Powell was solid, and the bowlers
had no answers. A great ball from Wagner undid Powell, and Gayle fell to his own
hubris against Williamson. However, the damage had been done.

A big score from a Black Caps batsman now seems to be anything above 50. After
so many years of failure, especially from the top order, a partnership of 97 is
very good. It just isn’t enough at top level though, and the West Indies showed
that they knew how to win big moments in the match. Gayle delivered at the
crucial moment of his international comeback, his first test innings.

These two partnerships tell the story the match. The Black Caps fought hard,
and achieved about as much as they could have hoped for. The West Indies
simply have a few players who are better. When comparing openers, would you
rather have Gayle or Guptill? Powell or Flynn? When it comes to spinners, isn’t
the aggressive and unpredictable Narine better than the stodgy and defensive
Vettori? Rampaul and Roach inspire much more fear than Martin and Bracewell.
What good is fighting spirit when you are outgunned?

As well as that, the Windies took key moments in the match. Late on day one,
Narine broke through to dismiss Guptill and Taylor, meaning a great day for
New Zealand was now merely an acceptable day. In the 1st West Indian innings,
just when the Back Caps could have broken through to limit the damage
Sammy stepped up and cracked a 50. Wickets fell late on day 4, after a strong
partnership between Guptill and McCullum. This significantly hampered efforts
to save the match, as did steady wickets early on day 5. Finally, the West Indies
finished the match in style, wrapping up a modest chase quickly and effectively.

What chance does New Zealand have to turn things around? That all depends
on the hosts. If Sammy and his men choose to keep the pressure on, it seems
unlikely that there will be any hope for New Zealand. The West Indies are
carrying themselves like winners at the moment, and it will be fascinating to
see if that will continue after this tour. In the meantime though, they have just
5 more days to finish off a fantastic run of matches. The results don’t lie, seven wins from eight matches is a very fair reflection on this one-sided series.

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