A lengthy rain break in the middle of the afternoon Sunday helped change the trajectory of the second day of the cricket Test between New Zealand and the West Indies, contributing to another collapse by the Caribbean side’s middle order.
The West Indies were 87-2, replying to New Zealand’s first innings of 373, when rain began to fall around the middle of the second session. No further play was possible before tea or for the first 20 minutes of the final session.
When the players returned, heavy overcast conditions helped promote swing and the West Indies lost four wickets for 48 runs, including their captain Kraigg Brathwaite to a contentious dismissal for 66, as they suffered their third collapse in as many innings in the series.
A feisty innings of 35 from 45 balls from wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich and a partnership of 35 for the eighth wicket between Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach helped slow the decline and allowed the West Indies avoid the follow on.
At stumps they were 215-8, trailing New Zealand by 158 runs, with Reifer not out 22 and Miguel Cummins 10 not out. Reifer, on test debut, played a bold late hand, defying the New Zealand bowlers for 107 minutes.
New Zealand still holds the advantage in the match and two-test series after winning the first test at Wellington by an innings and 67 runs. In that match, the West Indies were 59-0 in their first innings before being bowled out for 134 and 257-3 in their second innings before being dismissed for 319.
The loss of Shai Hope (28), Roston Chase (12), Sunil Ambris (2) and Brathwaite after the rain break Sunday followed that pattern. After having made a relatively solid beginning the innings began to teeter and lost its foundation when Brathwaite was out at 135-6 after having batted for just under three hours.
The increased swing became evident in the dismissal of Hope who received a ball from Tim Southee which angled into him, straightened and which the batsman edged to Ross Taylor at first slip. Chase then received a ball from Colin de Grandhomme which also shaped enough to beat the bat and to hit off stumps.
Ambris earned a rare distinction in test cricket when he was out hit wicket for the second time in the only three innings of his test career. He was out in that fashion for a first ball duck on his debut in the first test at Wellington and he suffered the same fate Sunday, becoming one of only three batsmen in test history to be out hit wicket more than once in their careers.
Brathwaite then fell to a superb catch by Southee off de Grandhomme. Southee first took the ball above his head at short cover, lost his grip on it briefly and then dived forward to catch it again, one-handed, just above the turf. Television replays, which were not requested by the batting side, hinted that despite Southee’s athletic effort the ball might in fact just have touched the ground.
Brathwaite’s was an outstanding innings which helped the West Indies recover from the loss of Kieran Powell in the first over of their innings and Shimron Hetmyer (28) at 46-2. At 87-2 and with Brathwaite and Hope together in a 44-run partnership for the third wicket, the West Indies looked to be finding their footing in the match but the rain dampened their fightback.
Southee finished the day with 2-34 from 18 overs, while de Grandhomme had 40.
Earlier Sunday, a quickfire last-wicket partnership of 61 in 41 minutes between Southee and Boult strengthened New Zealand’s overnight position.
Boult struck an unbeaten 37 from 27 balls and Southee hit 31 which helped New Zealand reach 373 in its first innings. New Zealand resumed Sunday at 286-7 after losing the toss and being asked to bat on an even first day at Seddon Park.
“Obviously the runs we scored this morning and having then eight down tonight was a pretty good effort,” Southee said. “We put on some valuable runs there at the end.”