Gayle, Powell blast offTAG TEAM: West Indies openers Chris Gayle (left) and Kieran Powell punching gloves during their double-century partnership. (Picture courtesy Brooks LaTouche Photography/www.digicelcricket.com)
Sat, July 28, 2012 - 12:03 AM
NORTH SOUND – Openers Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell plundered career-defining hundreds with dominant batting, putting West Indies in a superior position against New Zealand in the first Test yesterday.
Gayle celebrated his long-awaited return to Test whites with an even 150 – his 14th hundred in Tests – and Powell justified his immense promise with 134 – his maiden hundred - to build the foundation on which West Indies reached 442 for six, replying to New Zealand’s first innings total of 351, at the close of the third day.
Assad Fudadin, another left-hander, enhanced his reputation with a resolute 55, Narsingh Deonarine was not out on 54, and Marlon Samuels made 28 to underline West Indies’ dominance on a true Vivian Richards Cricket Ground pitch.
Before lunch, Gayle, playing a Test for the first time in more than 19 months, reached his milestone from 149 balls, when he greeted Chris Martin’s first ball of the day, a short, rising delivery, with a pull high over midwicket for his second six.
After lunch, Powell, playing in his tenth Test, gave the modest crowd reason to celebrate for the second time in the day, when he reached his hundred in the second over after lunch.
A graduate from the first class of the Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre, he authoritatively pulled an innocuous short, rising delivery from Neil Wagner through backward square leg for his 16th four, before running down the pitch, leaping and punching in the air in joy.
The two tall, easy-going left-handers put on 254 for the first wicket – the highest West Indies opening stand since Gayle and Daren Ganga put on 214 against Zimbabwe 11 years ago in Bulawayo.
Fudadin followed up with resolute batting after Gayle departed, anchoring two half-century stands with Samuels and Narsingh Deonarine either side of a rare first-ball dismissal for veteran West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
After West Indies resumed from their overnight total of 145 without loss, Gayle lofted left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori for a six over long off to move to 95 before dispatching Martin to reach his hundred.
He further celebrated, when he drove the same bowler on the up to long off for another boundary two deliveries later.
Powell showed his class with a few well-executed boundaries after a 20-minute stoppage, when rain offered New Zealand temporary respite about 40 minutes after the start.
Gayle, on 142, again had a huge slice of fortune, when wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk and Ross Taylor both failed to grab a chance, after he edged the ball playing defensively forward to Kane Williamson’s part-time off spin.
Next delivery Powell almost gifted his wicket on 95 when he popped a delivery from the same bowler just over the head of the midwicket fielder off the leading edge, as West Indies reached 245 without loss at the interval.
Gayle tried to clear the deep mid off fielder and was caught about ten yards inside the boundary rope off Williamson. He struck 17 fours and four sixes from 206 balls in his 307 minutes at the crease.
Powell and Fudadin carried West Indies to 269 for one, when New Zealand claimed the second new ball after 82 overs.
Both batsmen endured a few anxious moments, as the New Zealand bowlers gained more bounce and movement from the new “cherry”.
After he reached his hundred, Powell struck three consecutive fours in Wagner’s 17th over.
He lofted the left-arm fast-medium bowler’s first delivery straight, slapped the second over backward point to take West Indies over the 300 threshold and drove the third imperiously through extra cover.
Trying to repeat the previous stroke, however, Powell edged and was caught behind, after batting 363 minutes, striking 22 fours and one six from 288 balls. (CMC)
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