The first test between New Zealand and the West Indies ended in a draw on Saturday, with rain washing out the final session and preventing a potentially exciting climax.
New Zealand was 79-4, chasing 112 to win when rain set in just before tea, providing the last twist in a test made compelling by the West Indies’ brave fightback after following on 396 runs behind.
Darren Bravo made 218 to lead the West Indies to 507 in their second innings an overall lead of 111 but New Zealand appeared to have a simple task of chasing down the modest target.
The home side steadied, with young allrounder Corey Anderson (20 not out) and first-inning double-century maker Ross Taylor (16 not out) getting the hosts back on course for victory only for the rain to arrive and then set in at the University Oval.
“It was a very good test match for us,” captain Brendan McCullum said. “After being put into bat on what looked a pretty good wicket at the start and to be able to score 600 was an outstanding achievement for us.”
Double centuries from Taylor in New Zealand’s first innings and from Bravo in the West Indies’ second were the highlights of a gripping contest, as the home team’s early dominance was eroded by the tourists’ inspiring revival.
The West Indies were under pressure from the start when Sammy misread the pitch and sent New Zealand in after winning the toss. Sammy was already managing a depleted attack in which he was the third seamer behind Tino Best and five-test fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.
Shillingford was the most experienced bowler but he had just arrived in New Zealand from Perth where his bowling action had been placed under independent scrutiny. He was reported for an illegal action mainly when he bowled his doosra during the second test against India in Mumbai in mid-November and now has to convince independent judges that it is legal.
The West Indies were also coming off innings losses in both of their tests in India and their confidence as an attack, and as a team, was not high. The touring bowlers missed their length on the opening day, bowling too short on a pitch which was green but offered only slow bounce.
New Zealand got away to a good start with a 95-run partnerhip for the first innings and seized control of the match when Taylor and McCullum (113) put on 195 for the fourth wicket. Taylor went on to make 217 not out his highest test score and New Zealand made 609-9 which seemed to obviate any possibility of defeat.
The West Indies were then dismissed for 213 in a first innings in which Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with 76, and Bravo, with 40, provided the principal resistance. New Zealand enforced the follow on late on the third day and the West Indies were quickly 18-1 in their second innings, facing the nightmare of a third-straight innings defeat.
But Bravo extracted them from that predicament, batting for 572 minutes for his first double century and highest test score. With Narsingh Deonarine (52) and Sammy (80) guided the West Indies to a score that gave them at least a small chance of victory.
Sammy gambled and called on Shillingford to share the new ball. The risk paid off, taking the wickets of Peter Fulton (3), Aaron Redmond (6), Hamish Rutherford (20) and McCullum (9) to finish with 4-26.
New Zealand has a history of making hard work of small targets against the West Indies in New Zealand. In 1979, set 104 to win, it lost nine wickets and sneaked the winning run with a leg bye; in 1987 it lost five wickets when chasing only 33.
The second test begins at Wellington on Wednesday.
New Zealand — 1st innings: 609 for nine decl.
West Indies — 1st innings: 213.
West Indies — 2nd innings: K. Edwards lbw b Sodhi 59, K. Powell c Southee b Boult 14, D. Bravo b Boult 218, M. Samuels c & b Southee 23, S. Chanderpaul lbw b Wagner 1, N. Deonarine c Watling b Anderson 52, D. Ramdin b Sodhi 24, D. Sammy c Sodhi b Southee 80, S. Shillingford c Taylor b Wagner 15, T. Best c Taylor b Wagner 3, S. Gabriel (not out) 0, Extras (b-4, lb-7, w-5, nb-2) 18; Total (in 162.1 overs) 507.
Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-135, 3-178, 4-185, 5-307, 6-363, 7-453, 8-491, 9-507.
New Zealand bowling: Southee 29.1-4-101-2, Boult 35-11-81-2, Wagner 30-3-112-3, Anderson 14-2-29-1, Sodhi 49-7-155-2, Redmond 5-1-18-0.
New Zealand — 2nd innings: P. Fulton c Ramdin b Shillingford 3, H. Rutherford c Gabriel b Shillingford 20, A. Redmond c Deonarine b Shillingford 6, R. Taylor (not out) 16, B. McCullum c Ramdin b Shillingford 9, C. Anderson (not out) 20, Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-1) 5; Total (for four wkts in 30 overs) 79.
Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-15, 3-31, 4-44.
West Indies bowling: Best 8-1-26-0, Shillingford 15-5-26-4, Gabriel 5-1-16-0, Deonarine 2-0-7-0.