Gayle almighty! Windies batsman makes grand Test return
Gayle, Powell tons put Windies in control
NORTH SOUND, Antigua (CMC) — Openers Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell plundered career-defining hundreds with dominant batting, putting West Indies in a superior position against New Zealand in the first Test yesterday here.
Gayle celebrated his long-awaited return to Test whites with an even 150 — his 14th hundred in Tests — and Kieran Powell fulfilled his immense promise with 134 — his maiden hundred — to build the foundation on which West Indies reached 442 for six, replying to New Zealand's first-innings total of 351, at the close on the third day.
Assad Fudadin, another left-hander, enhanced his reputation with a resolute 55, Narsingh Deonarine was not out on 54, and Marlon Samuels made 28 to underline West Indies' dominance on a true Vivian Richards Cricket Ground pitch.
Before lunch, Gayle, playing a Test for the first time in more than 19 months, reached his milestone from 149 balls, when he greeted Chris Martin's first ball of the day, a short, rising delivery, with a pull high over midwicket for his second six.
He removed his helmet and held his arms aloft in triumph for several seconds before waving his bat to the four corners of the ground in celebration.
After lunch, Powell, playing in only his 10th Test, gave the modest crowd reason to celebrate for the second time in the day, when he reached his hundred in the second over after lunch.
A graduate from the first-class of the Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre, he authoritatively pulled an innocuous short, rising delivery from Neil Wagner through backward square leg for his 16th four, before running down the pitch, leaping and punching in the air in joy.
The two tall, easy-going left-handers put on 254 for the first wicket — the highest West Indies opening stand since Gayle and Daren Ganga put on 214 against Zimbabwe 11 years ago in Bulawayo.
Fudadin followed up with resolute batting after Gayle departed, anchoring two half-century stands with Samuels and Narsingh Deonarine either side of a rare first-ball dismissal for veteran West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
After West Indies resumed from their overnight total of 145 without loss, Gayle lofted New Zealand's bespectacled champion left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori for a six over long-off to move to 95 before dispatching Martin to reach his hundred.
He further celebrated, when he drove the same bowler on the up to long-off for another boundary two deliveries later.
Powell showed his class with a few well-executed boundaries after a 20-minute stoppage, when rain offered New Zealand temporary respite about 40 minutes after the start.
He struck two boundaries in Martin's 13th over before he moved into the 90s, when he scorched the turf with a firm sweep off Vettori through midwicket for his 15th four.
But it was not all one-way traffic for West Indies, as the Black Caps' bowlers, Wagner and Vettori in particular, bowled purposeful spells, and came close to making the breakthrough just prior to lunch.
Gayle, on 142, again had a huge slice of fortune, when wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk and Ross Taylor both failed to grab a chance, after he edged playing defensively forward to Kane Williamson's part-time offspin.
Next delivery, Powell too, almost gifted his wicket on 95, when he popped a delivery from the same bowler just over the head of the midwicket fielder off the leading edge, as West Indies reached 245 without loss at the interval.
After lunch, Powell followed up Gayle with his hundred before New Zealand claimed them, as West Indies reached 352 for two at tea.
Powell brought up his hundred from 242 balls before Gayle reached his 150 from the first delivery of the next over, when he drove his 204th ball from Vettori to long-on for a single.
His celebration was far more subdued than for his hundred, but he gave New Zealand something to celebrate for the first time in the innings in the following over.
Gayle tried to clear the deep mid-off fielder and was caught about 10 yards inside the boundary rope off Williamson. He struck 17 fours and four sixes from 206 balls in his 307-minute stay at the crease.
Powell and Fudadin carried West Indies to 269 for one, when New Zealand claimed the second new ball after 82 overs.
Both West Indies batsmen endured a few anxious moments, as the New Zealand bowlers gained more bounce and movement from the new "cherry".
After reaching his hundred, Powell's confidence soared and reached its summit, when he struck three consecutive fours in Wagner's 17th over.
He lofted the left-arm fast-medium bowler's first delivery straight, slapped the second over backward point to take West Indies over the 300 threshold, and drove the third imperiously through extra cover.
Trying to repeat the previous stroke, however, Powell edged and was caught behind, much to the delight of the enthusiastic Wagner, after batting 363 minutes, striking 22 fours and one six from 288 balls, and sharing 50 with Fudadin for the second wicket.
Samuels joined Fudadin and entertained the crowd in the 45 minutes remaining before tea with a few fine strokes.
He got off the mark with a tickle to deep fine leg for four off Doug Bracewell before he launched Vettori for six over long-off, following up with a handsome drive past mid-off for four off Wagner and a cut through backward point for another four off Vettori.
After the break, West Indies plans hit a snag, when Martin struck twice in successive overs, leaving the hosts 355 for four.
Samuels was bowled, when he dragged a delivery from the slim fast-medium bowler into his stumps in the second over after tea, after he added 51 for the third wicket with Fudadin.
West Indies were further jolted, when Martin, bending his back to gain appreciable bounce and movement, snared Chanderpaul with a snorter, which the veteran left-hander gloved to the 'keeper.
Deonarine, the fifth left-hander in the West Indies batting order, prevented Martin from taking a hat-trick and spent just over an hour and 45 minutes with compatriot Fudadin restoring the balance of power.
Fudadin reached his 50 from 120 balls, when he turned a rising delivery from Wagner into square leg for a single and put on 55 with Deonarine, but he became troubled by cramps in his right arm before he, like Gayle, tried to clear long-off with Williamson and was caught just inside the ropes by the back-pedalling McCullum.
With the day drawing to a close, Denesh Ramdin was bowled by Doug Bracewell for three from a bottom-edged pull before Deonarine brought up his 50 from 81 balls with a single to midwicket off the same bowler in the penultimate over of the day.
Williamson ended the day with 2-46 from 19 overs and Martin finished with 2-109 from 23 overs.