KINGSTON: Kane Williamson’s sixth Test hundred and a battling 83 by opener Tom Latham put New Zealand in control at 240 for two at stumps on day one of the first Test against the West Indies on Sunday. Justifying captain Brendon McCullum’s decision to bat first on a pitch devoid of grass, Williamson, who resumes Monday on 105 in partnership with former skipper Ross Taylor (34 not out), put on 165 for the second wicket with Latham. It came at the expense of a completely revamped West Indies bowling attack from the one that featured in the Caribbean side’s last Test six months ago against the same opponents in Hamilton.
Fast bowler Jerome Taylor impressed on his return after a four-and-a-half year absence through a series of injuries, taking the early wicket of Peter Fulton to a catch at the wicket by Denesh Ramdin, the home side’s new Test captain. He should have added the scalp of Latham in the first over after lunch when the left-hander, on 39, edged a drive to gully only for television replays to confirm that the pacer had delivered a no-ball. Television technology had already proved critical to Latham’s progress in the morning session. He survived one referral by the West Indies to overturn a ‘not out’ verdict on a leg-before appeal and was then successful in having a ruling of a bat-pad catch off left-arm spinner Suliemen Benn reversed in his favour.
He missed out on a maiden Test hundred in just his second match however, off-spinner Shane Shillingford completing a simple caught-and-bowled dismissal in the final session. Any hopes the West Indies had of further breakthroughs were dashed by Williamson and Taylor, who took a particularly heavy toll on the second new ball, slashing three boundaries in the comeback over of Kemar Roach. Williamson’s patience and vigilance were eventually rewarded in the penultimate over of the day, cutting two fours to third man off Benn to reach the treasured landmark after 270 minutes at the crease and put the seal on an immensely satisfying day for the tourists. His third-wicket partnership with Taylor has so far realised 66 runs and with a wealth of batting to follow, there is every prospect of New Zealand pushing on to a formidable first innings total on the second day.
In contrast to the protracted struggle that followed, West Indies started the match in a celebratory mood with a small ceremony to mark the 100th Test for local hero Chris Gayle. Any inspiration that Ramdin was hoping his players could have drawn from that landmark achievement disappeared however in the Sabina Park dust as New Zealand’s top-order ground their way to a formidable position with the type of disciplined batting that the home side will have to replicate whenever their turn at the crease arrives.
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