SPEED merchants Kemar Roach and Tino Best shared six wickets as West Indies took charge of day one of the second Digicel Test against New Zealand at Sabina Park yesterday.
When the umpires pulled stumps in late afternoon, West Indies were 11-0 replying to New Zealand's disappointing 260 on a pitch that provided fair bounce and pace.
Leading 1-0 in the two-Test series following their nine-wicket win in the first match in Antigua, West Indies are seeking to complete their first series victory in the Caribbean since shocking England in 2009.
First Test centurions Kieran Powell, 10, and Chris Gayle, one, will resume today harbouring thoughts of a 'runfest' at Sabina.
Roach, who has been having a dream run this year, took 4-70 in 17.5 overs, while a pumped-up Best, who has played just 15 Tests in nine years, took 2-40.
He also accounted for the run-out of New Zealand's topscorer Martin Guptill (71) with a fine pick-up and direct throw at the stumps.
Until the ball started turning in late afternoon, star off-spinner Sunil Narine was largely blunted by stubborn New Zealand batting, but part-time off-spinner Narsingh Deonatrine filled the breach with 2-43.
Sent to bat, New Zealand were staggering at 11-2 in the sixth over as Roach and Best made the most of preparation moisture in the pitch. But then Guptill, who hit 97 and 67 in the first Test, and captain Ross Taylor, pushed their hosts back with a third-wicket stand of 103 in 32 overs.
However, the rest of the batting fell away before the pace and spin of the West Indies.
The 25-year-old right-handed Guptill played an anchoring role spread over 250 minutes and 174 balls and hit two sixes and six fours before becoming the sixth wicket — victim of Best's fielding heroics.
The cultured, right-handed Taylor flowed after a slightly shaky start, his cuts and pulls providing great entertainment for the small but appreciative crowd before falling to Best. The 28 year-old Taylor faced 100 balls and stroked 10 fours.
Darren Sammy's decision to send the opposition to bat was firmly vindicated in the first hour as Best and Roach exploited helpful early conditions — finding pace and movement off the seam to remove BJ Watling (2) and Brendon McCullum (0).
First, Roach in the fifth over reaped reward for impeccable length and line, hitting the edge of Watling's searching blade for Gayle to take the catch comfortably at first slip.
Roach and everyone else had to wait for several heart-stopping moments as the umpires went through what has become a virtual ritual in checking the legality of his front-foot landing. He was ruled to have got a tiny bid of heel behind the line and a disappointed Watling had to go.
Best struck in the next over, his bouncing leg-cutter nicking McCullum's edge for wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin to complete the catch.
Taylor, bothered early by the pace and hostility of Best, and a cautious Guptill, battled through. And as the pitch dried out they found the going much easier against the medium pace of Sammy and the off-spin of Sunil Narine.
They mixed solid defence with the odd attacking shot — Guptill's flowing straight driven six off Sammy being the stroke of the morning.
New Zealand went to lunch at 74-2 — Taylor on 36 and Guptill 32. Showers delayed the restart by 20 minutes but the extended break appeared to do the New Zealand pair no harm at all — Taylor in particular gathered quick runs with a succession of pleasing strokes.
In the end, it was Taylor's favoured cut shot that proved his undoing. Having smashed Best to the third man boundary, the New Zealand captain sought to repeat the shot an over later only to be defeated by extra bounce for the top-edged chance to be held by the keeper Denesh Ramdin.
An increasingly assured Guptill and Kane Williamson shared 47 for the fourth wicket before the dismissal of the latter triggered a collapse. Williamson (22) who never looked truly assured, escaped at 17 when his powerful straight drive was spilled by Deonarine. But the off-spinner made amends five overs later as Williamson chased a flighted wide delivery to edge a simple catch to first slip. It was then 161-4 and it became 162-5 when Dean Brownlie (0) edged Roach's away swinger to the keeper.
This time the fast bowler's heel was comfortably behind the line when the umpires checked.
The search for quick singles ended Guptill's fine knock. Responding to Kruger Van Wyk's call, he was found short of his ground by Best's direct hit from extra cover.
Van Wyk (16) and Doug Bracewell (14) took the score past 200 before the latter was bowled by Narine on the sweep at 202-7. Drama had preceded that dismissal as Bracewell was given out caught at short leg only for Paul Reifel's decision to be overturned on review — the bowler had overstepped, but also it appeared the bat never made contact.
New Zealand slid to 202-8 when an indecisive Van Wyk was bowled between bat and pad by Deonarine. Tim Southee (18) responded to the crisis by launching Deonarine over mid-wicket and straight for a boundary and two sixes but he perished to the first ball of a new spell from Roach — well caught by Sammy at second slip low down.