12 December 2008

Thoughts on the first day

A few quick notes on the first day's play in the first test between New Zealand and the West Indies at the University Oval in Dunedin:

Daniel Flynn's dismissal for 95 was not only significant because the lbw decision was gained as a result of West Indies captain Chris Gayle's appeal to the TV umpire. It was also noteworthy for the more prosaic and old-fashioned reason that it was actually the largest score by a New Zealand number 3 batsman since April 2006, when Stephen Fleming scored 262 against South Africa at Cape Town. Traditionally the number three slot is reserved for a side's most punishing batsman, but in recent tests New Zealand's number 3 batsmen have failed to carry on to big scores. (By way of comparison since 27 April 2006, the start of the New Zealand test in Cape Town, five test centuries have been scored by the Australian test number 3 Ricky Ponting, six by the South African number 3 Hashim Amla, and five by the West Indies number 3 - two by Lara and three by Sarwan). Since Fleming's double century seven other batsmen have been tried in the role before Flynn: Scott Styris, Mathew Sinclair, Lou Vincent, Peter Fulton, James Marshall, Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder (and Fleming had a few more goes at 3 as well - but he deserved the slot). The new team management have indicated that Flynn has been chosen for the position to offer a calmer head at the top of the innings, and if this innings is anything to go by, he's well suited to the job.

It's too early to say how the West Indies bowling attack will fare in New Zealand, although as usual Chris Gayle (42-3 today) relished the opportunity to bowl in the local conditions. West Indies fielded two test debutants, as discussed by Tony Cozier in this profile. It's worth noting that Brendan Nash is the first white player selected to play for the West Indies test team since Geoff Greenidge, who played 5 tests for the Windies in 1972-73. Greenidge (no relation of the Windies great Gordon Greenidge, I presume?) also made his test debut against New Zealand, in the famous drawn test at Georgetown, Guyana, in which Glenn Turner (259) and Terry Jarvis (189) scored a mammoth 387 for the first wicket, which was the highest New Zealand partnership for any wicket until Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones put on 467 against Sri Lanka in Wellington in January 1991. For the record, in his debut test Geoff Greenidge scored 50 (his highest test score) and 35 opening the batting with the talented Roy Fredericks, and had bowling figures of 14-4-34-0 in New Zealand's only innings.

While New Zealand will be pleased to have ended the first day of the test only having lost four wickets, the fact remains that the last two recognised batsmen are now at the crease, and New Zealand's innings could be wrapped up for considerably less than 300 if the West Indian bowlers find their rhythm in the morning. Still, Franklin's in great form with the bat, and he, Vettori and Mills can all score a few runs. (New Zealand's replaced the lovable uber-rabbit Chris Martin with... two more Chris Martins. Both Mark Gillespie and Iain O'Brien average under 5.0) Then it'll be the turn of the ominous Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul, all of whom could score heavily against the New Zealand attack on their day. It will be a fascinating match between two well-matched sides. I'm picking a knife-edge duel consisting of four 250-range innings with an either-way finish on the fourth day. But then what do I know?

[Pic: Getty Images]
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