WELLINGTON: The West Indies harbour hopes of their first away win over New Zealand in 22 years as the loss of Tim Southee and BJ Watling put pressure on the Blacks Caps ahead of Friday’s first Test in Wellington.
Without strike bowler Southee, and a lack of experience among the New Zealand middle order batsmen, West Indies captain Jason Holder sees the key to success as the swift removal of senior batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.
New Zealand are returning to the Test arena after an eight-month break while the battle-hardened West Indies are coming off a 2-1 series loss to England, including a dramatic victory at Headingley, and a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe.
“We’ve been on the road together for a while (and) we’re doing some good things but we need to be pushing the consistency button more to keep heading in that upward direction,” Holder said.
New Zealand have delayed making a decision on whether Lockie Ferguson, with his extreme pace, or the consistent Matt Henry will replace the 57-Test new-ball bowler Southee, who will miss the Test due to the impending birth of his second child.
Tom Blundell has already been confirmed to make his debut as wicketkeeper with Watling failing to recover from a thigh injury.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson expects whoever wins the toss at the Basin Reserve to bowl.
“Same as always,” he said when viewing a wicket that was greenish on Wednesday but expected to brown off before the Test begins.
“Everyone gets a bit excited about that. I always think it’s a bowl first up here anyway but it’s always a good cricket wicket.”
Unlike the West Indies, who have had a recent diet of Test cricket, New Zealand are fresh from a limited overs series in India and have not worn their whites since the 1-0 series loss to South Africa in March.
Openers Jeet Raval and Tom Latham did play for New Zealand A in the West Indies warm-up match with Raval’s unbeaten 32 in the second innings their best score.
Ferguson, who could replace Southee, used his pace to worry the West Indies with figures of five for 67 and two for 24.
The tourists dominated the first two days of that match, posting 451 for nine declared when they batted first, with Shai Hope posting 110 while Sunil Ambris, pushing for his first Test selection, made 157.
But in their second innings they were rolled for 186 with Kraigg Braithwaite’s unbeaten 88 the only score of note.
With Watling out of contention and a middle order of Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme and Blundell having only 35 Tests and 48 innings among them, the West Indies quicks will be keen to make early inroads.
Holder said they will be formulating plans to remove Williamson and Taylor cheaply.
“We know the calibre player both of them are. It’s just a matter of us being patient and sticking to our plans. Over the next few days, we’ll sit down and have some discussion around those two players,” he said.
“I think they’re their main players, but you can’t rule out a guy like Tom Latham. He’s done well in the past for New Zealand and he’s carrying some current form as well.”
The West Indies have not tasted a Test victory in New Zealand since February 1995 when they won by an innings and 322 runs at the Basin Reserve on the back of a 660 for five declared first innings headed by Brian Lara (147) and Jimmy Adams (151).-AFP