Windies eyeing victory
BEATEN?IN?four days by New Zealand at Sabina Park, Denesh Ramdin’s West Indies side threatened to return the compliment yesterday at Queen’s Park Oval.
Starting the penultimate day of the second Test needing nine wickets to level the series, the Windies bowlers chipped away at the opposition, taking seven wickets, and leaving themselves on the brink of victory.
Another small crowd yesterday would have been anticipating a win on the local Labour Day holiday when Tim Southee was superbly caught at cover by Kirk Edwards diving to his left to snare a drive off Kemar Roach.
New Zealand were still 27 runs away from clearing the 239-run deficit to make the Windies bat again and Mark Craig was coming to the crease to join wicketkeeper B.J. Watling.
One hour and 44 minutes later, Watling (38 not out) and Craig (29 not out) were still at the crease and their side was 18 runs ahead heading into the final day with the score on 257 for eight.
Watling, standing his ground for just about four-and-a-quarter hours, and rookie Craig, with a career batting average above 22, made the West Indies bowlers work harder than they or the spectators had anticipated in putting together a ninth-wicket partnership so far worth 45.
It was a wearisome final session for the Windies who only picked up two wickets in that time. The new ball – taken after 94 overs – accounted for both Ish Sodhi and Southee. But almost as if they presumed the end was imminent, pacers Roach (21-6-53-3), Jerome Taylor (25-8-46-2) and Shannon Gabriel (19-3-56-1) did not pile on the pressure, and Ramdin’s decision to set more defensive fields for the established Watling did not help the cause.
The Windies seemed to run out of ideas as the overs passed and yet again, a lower order partnership proved a bigger than expected obstacle for the side.
No blame however could be laid at the big feet of Sulieman Benn however.
Persistent like a house fly and dangerous when he pitched into the rough for the left-handers, he anchored the bowling effort sending down 36 overs, including 14 maidens. His figures so far read: 49-19-62-2.
It has so far been a continuation of what he started in the first innings. His effort was worth more than his two wickets yesterday. The return catch he took to dismiss Kane Williamson in the first session was certainly worth about two by itself.
Stretching up to 6ft 7 ins, he somehow swooped down inches from the turf, lunging to his left to hold, with his weaker right hand, a firm drive off his own left-arm spin.
The TV producer seemed not to tire from showing replays of that play of the match.
It was indeed the highlight of the first session in which West Indies patience was rewarded with three wickets.
With a further 166 runs to play with before New Zealand could ask them to bat again, Ramdin’s bowlers kept the shackles on batsmen bent on survival.
While Benn caused grief for the stubborn left-hander Tom Latham with one that jumped at him out of the rough and ballooned to close-in fielder Kraigg Brathwaite, the seamers had to rely on sustaining pressure to force errors.
Latham (36, five fours, 195 minutes) and his overnight partner Williamson (52, 215 minutes, five fours) with whom he added 75 for the second wicket, and Jimmy Neesham were prised out by lunch, taken at 129 for four.
In the middle session, Gabriel removed Ross Taylor (36) to a Ramdin catch behind the stumps and the previously unwell opener Hamish Rutherford, coming in at No. 7, fell lbw to a Taylor inswinger. Both batsmen tried in vain for reprieves via the review system.
Their dismissals and those of Sodhi and Southee had many making alternative plans for today.
However, Craig and Watling upset the planning.