Mark Craig’s dream debut culminated in a 186-run victory for New Zealand in the first cricket Test against the West Indies at Sabina Park on Thursday. The off-spinner claimed four second innings wickets to finish with eight in the match as the home side crumbled to 216 after being set a daunting target of 403.
There was an unexpected late flourish by the West Indies last-wicket pair as last man Shane Shillingford belted the fastest-ever half-century by a Caribbean in Tests and dominated a record tenth-wicket partnership against New Zealand of 82. Yet, it only delayed the inevitable with New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum summoning Kane Williamson for the last over of the day.
He duly obliged by having Benn caught at the wicket to trigger celebrations among the Black Caps at only their second victory in 16 Test matches in the West Indies going back to their first tour here in 1972.
Craig’s haul of four for 97 complimented the very important early double-strike by Tim Southee after McCullum declared his team’s second innings at 156 for eight, an effort highlighted by opening batsman Tom Latham’s battling 73, his second half-century of the match.
Fresh from an excellent effort in the first innings when he claimed four for 19, Southee removed openers Kieran Powell and Chris Gayle in quick succession.
Powell fell without scoring while Gayle, who went past 7,000 runs in Test cricket in getting off the mark with a boundary, departed in the seamer’s next over, caught at the wicket in a manner similar to his first innings dismissal off the same bowler.
For the few fans gathered at Sabina Park hoping for a monumental effort from their hero in his 100th Test match, his swift demise was as much of a huge let-down for them as it was a considerable boost to New Zealand.
Craig then got into his own on the wearing pitch with the wickets of Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Kemar Roach. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi chimed in with the all-important wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul before adding the scalps of beleaguered captain Denesh Ramdin and tailender Jerome Taylor.
“This is a dream come true. It surely doesn’t get any better than this,” was Craig’s reaction on receiving the Man of the Match award.
“It think it all went wrong for us in the first innings when three of our top six didn’t get a score,” said Ramdin in reflecting on the defeat. “We just need to spend more time at the crease.”
“This was a brilliant Test match for us. To get 500 on that wicket was a special effort,” said McCullum continued…