Kiwis put damper on Gayle celebrations
THERE were high expectations for Christopher Gayle's hundredth Test at Sabina Park in Kingston.
A West Indies win against touring New Zealand in the opening Test match of the series would have been sweet. The addition of a century from Gayle to mark the landmark occasion would have been even sweeter.
Instead, New Zealand swept to a party-crashing 186-run win inside four days, putting a damper on the Gayle celebrations.
The 34-year-old left-handed opener, struggling with a back ailment, could not be faulted for lack of effort.
Tormented by pacer Tim Southee throughout his first innings knock, Gayle bided his time, carefully choosing what deliveries to attack and went on to score an accomplished 64 before the bowler finally struck.
"I would have loved to get to triple figures," Gayle told reporters at the end of the first innings.
"I thought Southee bowled well all morning and I survived that first session, which was a vital one, and I guess he deserved the wicket in the second session. There was a lot of pressure. Your 100th Test match you want to get a score."
In the second innings, the impressive Southee, 25, also brought about the demise of Gayle, dismissing him for 10 and ruining a dream as the hosts slumped to defeat.
For Gayle, the only consolation was that he passed 7,000 runs in Test cricket and also went by the 6,996 runs tallied by Sir Donald Bradman, arguably the finest Test batsman of all time.
One man who had a fantasy-like match was New Zealand off-spinner Mark Craig, who took eight wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award in only his first Test.
"It was very nice to contribute to the team, obviously getting a couple of wickets was a bonus. It was a bit of a dream start there," the 27-year-old Craig beamed.
For the West Indies, there was an encouraging return from injury of 29-year-old pace bowler Jerome Taylor.
The ever-green left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 39, was again at the heart of the regional side's batting. His refreshingly fluent unbeaten half-century in the first innings offered hope, even if his dismissal in the second stanza signalled the end for the West Indies.
Off-spinner Shane Shillingford, who took five wickets in the match, looked menacing at times in the New Zealand second innings. But tail-ender's batting grabbed a consolatory spotlight as the home team was sliding to defeat.
Shillingford, 31, top scored with a Test-best 52 not out from 26 balls, and in the process became the West Indian with the fastest 50 in Test cricket.
In reaching the milestone off 25 deliveries, he was just shy of equalling South African Jacques Kallis' 24-ball Test world record.
The feat was a part of a barnstorming 82-run partnership between him and Sulieman Benn, who made 25.
"I'm definitely thrilled...but it's unfortunate the result of the game. I know the rest of the guys will go back to the drawing board," Shillingford told television presenter Ian Bishop after the match.
West Indies wicketkeeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin, in his first Test series as captain, praised Shillingford and Benn. He also expects the team to rebound after the Kiwis recorded their first ever win at the Sabina venue.
"It's not the way I wanted to start my Test career. I believe in our first innings three of our top six batters didn't get a score. It was a nice little partnership down the end there, well done to Shillingford. We need to battle and spend time at the crease because the New Zealand bowlers, they were patient."
Brendon McCullum, the Kiwis skipper, lauded the displays of Southee, spinners Craig and Inderbir Singh Sodhi, and wicketkeeper BJ Watling in what he felt was a "brilliant" match.
"Overall, I thought it was a brilliant Test match from us... to get 500 runs [in the first innings] on that wicket was always going to allow us to be in the driver's seat.
The second Test match is set to be played at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad & Tobago from June 16-20.
"We'll refocus once we hit Trinidad and make sure the guys are fresh and ready. We know the West Indies team will come back very strongly as well," added McCullum.
The third match is scheduled for the Kensington Oval in Barbados from June 26-30.