Seamers help Windies reverse fortunes on opening day

In an absorbing day of Test cricket in Hamilton, Windies fought back in commendable fashion to take the upper hand against New Zealand in the second Test. After getting battered in the first Test and losing their captain for the second, Windies knew the task was going to be tougher to just compete in the second game, let alone push for a win. And when Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson guided them to a strong position in the second session with minimal effort, it appeared as if the visitors would surrender meekly.

But once Williamson and Raval fell in quick succession, the seamers took control and exerted more pressure on the home side. Colin de Grandhomme briefly threatened with a rapid half-century but Shannon Gabriel put his no-ball woes behind him to get rid of him with the new ball that left the hosts precariously placed at 286/7 at stumps on Saturday (December 9).

Earlier in the day, New Zealand were bolstered by the return of Tim Southee whereas Windies had to hand a debut to Raymon Reifer in Holder’s absence but the soothing balm came via the toss which the Windies won to subsequently insert New Zealand in. On a slightly greenish looking wicket, the pacers failed to extract movement off the surface and couldn’t’ swing the new ball too.

To make matters worse, Gabriel made a horror start conceding 22 in his first two overs as both Raval and Tom Latham hit a flurry of boundaries. Raval in particular, looked in very good touch, driving and pulling firmly. But just when the opening stand swelled to 65, Miguel Cummins continued his short-ball ploy to Latham to eventually get the left-hander glove one to the keeper. Kane Williamson and Raval though got the team through to lunch with no further damage.

It was the turn of the debutant then to make a mark in the second session. Despite not picking wickets, he went through a spell where he kept the runs in check forcing New Zealand to go into a shell. Only 31 runs came in 15 overs as Raval helped himself to a vital half-century. He looked set for a big one when New Zealand found their mojo again with a few boundaries. But another short ball bowled at the pads came to the aide of the Windies as it was the turn of Williamson to nick one to the keeper.

The visitors suddenly managed to turn the tables by sending Raval back to the pavilion as well Gabriel managed to find his outside edge. Losing both the batsmen in a matter of three overs was never going to be ideal for the home side and just when they needed Ross Taylor to guide them through to stumps, he played a loose stroke off Kemar Roach, only for the wicketkeeper to complete the formalities again.

With Henry Nicholls following Taylor very soon, to become Reifer’s first Test wicket, New Zealand were tottering, needing another big knock from Colin de Grandhomme. The allrounder was cautious though to begin with as the seamers managed to find better support from the surface compared to the first session. But once he got to his zone by launching Roston Chase for a couple of sixes, he looked to tear apart the visitors once again for the second time in two games.

Slowly, Mitchell Santner also went into his groove as the partnership threatened to take away all the momentum the Windies had built until that point. De Grandhomme brought up his fifty with a stylish flick for a six soon after as a repeat of the Wellington special looked imminent. Gabriel through had other plans as the seamer came back strongly to finish the day with a bang. He got through the defence of Santner first and then followed it up by castling Grandhomme as well. Two quick wickets and the pendulum had swung again.

Brief scores: New Zealand 286/7 (Jeet Raval 84, Colin de Grandhomme 58; Shannon Gabriel 3-79, Miguel Cummins 2-37) vs Windies

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