Hamilton: The West Indies are focussed on surviving Neil Wagner’s short-ball barrages as they look to square the series against New Zealand in the second and final Test starting in Hamilton tomorrow. The Caribbean visitors have historically been known for their own fast, intimidatory bowling, but were troubled byWagner’s rising deliveries in the first Test — primarily fromhis short ball that angles in towards the rib cage.
Wagner was New Zealand’s chief destroyer in Wellingtonwith seven wickets in the first innings and nine for thematch, which the hosts won by an innings and 67 runs. “It’s key to know what you want to do (against Wagner).Whether you’re going to take it on or don’t take it on,” saidKraigg Brathwaite, the stand-in skipper after Jason Holder wassuspended for a Test and fined for a slow over rate inWellington.
“We’re ready and had a good practice session yesterdayand also today and we’re looking forward to the challenge.” Brathwaite, who top scored for the West Indies with 91 intheir much improved second innings in Wellington, said theyhad settled on an uncomplicated plan to try to save theseries. “Stick to the basics. You don’t have to over-complicateit. Get a big first innings total, and obviously (it) willhelp us go far in the game a lot better.” New Zealand have been boosted by the confirmed return ofswing bowler Tim Southee, who missed the first Test for thebirth of his second child, in the only change to their lineup.
But despite the lop-sided result in the first Test, NewZealand are braced for a West Indies fightback similar to theway the tourists recovered in England just four months ago. After an innings loss in the first Test there, they wonthe second by five wickets. “We know they came back hard against England when theylost the first game, and I’m sure they’ll do that again inthis match,” said New Zealand’s senior batsman Ross Taylor. On the eve of the Test the covers were on the Seddon Parkpitch to prevent it over-cooking in an ongoing Hamilton heatwave, and the ground staff suspect there may be somevariable bounce late in the Test.
But in recent years the wicket has built a reputation forproducing runs, which is likely to put a focus on the racebetween Taylor and Kane Williamson to become New Zealand’smost prolific century-maker. The record of 17 is shared by the late Martin “Hogan” Crowe and current captain Williamson, with Taylor one behindon 16. Taylor has scored three centuries and Williamson two inthe past six Tests at Seddon Park, which is the home groundfor both players.
“I know if I go through the right preparation, givemyself the best chance and continually do that, I’ll be ableto get to 17, 18 or whatever,” Taylor said after his netsession on the eve of the Test. “Seventeen is the benchmark that Hogan wanted me to getto and beat, beat his amount that he got but he said alsocarry on and don’t stop there.” But Taylor, 33, said the 27-year-old Williamson had timeon his side to do much better than that. “Kane will probably end up with about 40, so we’ll justwork it out after that,” he quipped. Taylor was in sight of his 17th century in the first Testwhen he fell for 93 while Williamson, who averages 50.66, wasout for one.