Neil Wagner was twice on a hat-trick to take career-best figures of 7-39, helping New Zealand dismiss the West Indies for 134 and take control of the first cricket test on Friday. The West Indies reached 59-0 before losing all 10 wickets for 75 runs in the face of Wagner’s onslaught of accurate, short-pitched bowling. A last wicket partnership of 29 between Kemar Roach (14 not out) and Shannon Gabriel (10 made the collapse less severe.
New Zealand, playing its first test since March and its first against the West Indies in three years, was 85-2 at stumps with Jeet Raval 29 and Ross Taylor 12. It’s command of the first day was undermined slightly by the loss of Tom Latham for 37 and captain Kane Willaimson, in a dry patch, for 1.
After losing the toss and being asked to bat at Basin Reserve, West Indies openers Kraigg Brathwaite (24) and Kieran Powell (42) looked completely comfortable in their 90 minute partnership for the first wicket of 59.
But Wagner removed Brathwaite with a bouncer for his first wicket, which was a prototype for most of the rest, and that began a collapse which was only broken by the lunch break before seven wickets fell in little more than an hour in the second session.
It was a very pleasing day,” Wagner said. “It’s funny, I struggled for rhythm at the start and didn’t really feel comfortable and I had to work really hard to get something to click. Then it all started happening.
“We thought the wicket might do a bit more than it did. But that’s the Basin, it can do that at times and I thought we adjusted quite well and bowled good areas and asked good questions of the guys at the top of the order.”
The West Indies lost three wickets in the half hour before lunch and two more to successive deliveries from Wagner immediately after the break. That included Sunil Ambris who suffered the indignity of being out hit wicket for a golden duck to the first ball of his test career.
Wagner went on to dismiss West Indies captain Jason Holder for a first ball duck, one delivery after he had removed Roston Chase. He twice had the chance of a hattrick but wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich survived the first hattrick ball and Kemar Roach the second.
Trent Boult chipped in 2-36 _ the wickets of Powell and Miguel Cummins _ and Mitchell Santner effected the run out of Dowritch whose 18 was the best effort by a West Indies batsman after the openers.
By continually digging short-pitched deliveries into the ribs of the batsmen, occasionally surprising them with a fuller delivery or one that rises more sharply than the rest, Wagner has found a tactic which opponents find difficult to counter.
Though well-grassed, the pitch gave little assistance to the bowlers on Friday. It didn’t seam, its pace was uniform and the bounce wasn’t extraordinary. In spite of warm conditions, the ball didn’t swing and without that assistance, Wagner’s barrage of short-pitched deliveries became the most effective tactic.
Brathwaite, his first victim, was caught close in on the leg side by Henry Nicholls when he fended a ball off his ribs to the short-leg fieldsman.
Powell’s impressive innings, which featured a series of well-struck straight drives, was ended by Boult who surprised the batsman with a shorter delivery outside off which he had to play and could only edge to Raval at third slip.
Wagner removed Shimron Hetmeyr with the last ball before lunch, extracting steep bounce which forced the batsman to spar at the ball defensively as he tried to sway away. It took the bat and carried to Tom Latham at second slip.
Shai Hope fell to the second ball bowled by Wagner after lunch, as he completed his sixth over. Hope played at a ball which was short outside the leg stump and gloved a catch to Tom Blundell, giving the debuting wicketkeeper the first catch of his test career.
Ambris’ dismissal to the first ball of Wagner’s next over was unfortunate and historic for a batsman on debut _ he was the first batsman to be dismissed hit wicket for a golden duck in his first test innings. He had taken a step inside his crease, expecting a short ball from Wagner and moved back further on playing his shot, stepping on the base of the stumps and dislodging the bails.
Wagner then removed Chase and Holder with successive deliveries, surprising holder with a yorker which bowled him as he hovered on the back foot expecting a bouncer, to expose the West Indies tail and to complete his fifth five-wicket bag in tests.
After the run out of Dowrich and the removal of Cummins by Boult, Wagner ended the stubborn last-wicket partnership between Roach and Gabriel for his seventh wicket of the innings.