There were no surprises in the manner West Indies lost the first Test against New Zealand at Wellington. The visitors suffered a usual collapse in both the innings to give the Blackcaps a victory of 67 runs. While West Indies stood no chance in the first innings where Neil Wagner unleashed himself on them with career-best figures of 7 for 39, they found defiance on the third day when the top-order laid a solid foundation. However, the moment top-scorer Kraig Brathwaite was dismissed, that was followed by the other wickets fell like nine pins. To make it worse for the touring party now, for maintaining slow over-rate during the first Test, West Indian Captain Jason Holder has been suspended for a Test. Braithwaite is set to make his Test captaincy debut in the absence of Holder in Hamilton.
Out of 20 West Indian wickets in Wellington, 18 went to the quick bowlers and spinner Mitchell Santner managed only one but the crucial one, Braithwaite. Now with New Zealand’s spearhead Tim Southee to return for the second Test, the hosts look even stronger against an unsteady West Indies side. However, considering West Indies’ results in their recent series, they have managed to bounce back a couple of times in the last few months.
Pakistan toured West Indies for a three-Test series in April. The first Test was lost by the hosts because of their standard collapses in batting. However, they fought back in the second Test, mostly with the ball. They set Pakistan a target of a mere 188 runs in the fourth innings and the tourists were bowled out cheaply for 81 runs. Medium pacer Shannon Gabriel clinched his career’s second five-for, while he was supported by the likes of Holder and Alzarri Joseph. Pakistan have been a side to beat in Test cricket in the last couple of years and in the same period of time, West Indies beat them twice in a Test.
In August, West Indies toured England for a three-Test series. The Caribbean side were hammered in the first Test by an innings and 209 runs. They could not survive against the England pace attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Toby Roland Jones. Subsequent to that was an all-rounder performance from West Indies, against the hopes of all, that helped them beat England in a Test for the second time in three years.
There have been the same faces in Windies’ comeback matches – the likes of Brathwaite, Shahi Hope, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Gabriel and Roston Chase – who have contributed at some point of time in a West Indian Test win.
In Wellington, apart from Kieran Powell, only one other batsman (Braithwaite) scored 20-plus runs in the first innings before the batting collapse. When West Indies came out to bat in the second innings in Wellington, the first three batsmen chipped in with crucial runs and they needed Hope and Chase to finish the job at the bottom of the line-up in order to draw the Test.
West Indies now require their other dependable men with the bat, Hope and Chase, also to find their touch right in time. After Hope’s heroics in Headingley, whereas a 23-year-old and youngest member of the side, he led West Indies to a victory with twin tons, Hope has not lived up to the expectations completely. It was him, who was the major reason behind West Indies’ win after their heavy loss in the first Test in 2015 series.
Hope was also among the top run scores in Zimbabwe recently and even scored a ton in the tour match against New Zealand A. But, he will not be considered among the top batsmen until he replicates those performances on a bigger level against a top-ranked side. On the other hand, Chase has been undergoing a shaky form with the bat. He has not scored a half-century in his previous innings. He scored a 95 before that, which had come after six innings going without a Test fifty.
Along with Braithwaite, Powell, Hope and Chase, West Indies have a promising batsman in Shannon Hetmyer. His blazing 66 off 89, amidst the batting collapse in the second innings in the first Test, testified that he had what it takes to become a good Test batsman.
On the other hand, whereas the bowlers are concerned, pacer Roach could not get any support from the other fast bowlers and hence they could not deny New Zealand a big total when they came out to bat on the first day. While the Kiwi pacers like Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Colin de Grandhomme wiped the opponent’s batsmen twice in the Test, the West Indian pace attack was not even as half as effective. Since Holder will miss the Hamilton Test, there are chances that Alzarri Joseph makes a comeback on the Test side and his presence will strengthen West Indies’ pace attack.
The pitch of the second Test, once again, will aid the bowlers with pace and bounce. It can’t be a tricky as the ones back in England. When West Indies can pull themselves back in the series there, they sure can revive their chances in New Zealand. This young West Indies side has sometimes been overwhelmed in Tests, they have not beaten any side other than Zimbabwe in a Test series off late, but they have been equally unpredictable. New Zealand cannot afford to underestimate them as they have managed to win at least one Test in their previous four-Test series.