NORTH SOUND, Antigua (CMC) — Sunil Narine fought back for West Indies in the final hour with two late wickets, including Martin Guptill, in the first Test against New Zealand here yesterday.
Off-spinner Narine claimed 3-73 from 28 overs, scalping Guptill three short of his third Test hundred, as New Zealand ended the opening day at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on 232 for four in their first innings at the close.
Narine, playing in only his second Test, emerged from a tough start to put the New Zealanders on the back-foot, after Guptill anchored the batting, Daniel Flynn and Ross Taylor scored 45 each, and Brendon McCullum made 25.
The Mohawk-shaven Narine transformed a hard day in the office for West Indies, when he removed Taylor and Guptill, following their 90-run stand for the third wicket.
Narine was fortunate, when he got Taylor bowled, after the New Zealand captain chopped a delivery into his leg and the ball ricocheted onto his stumps.
The off-spinner followed up in his next over, teasing Guptill with a flighted delivery and having the lanky opener caught, trying to clear mid-on for a boundary that would have taken him to his hundred. He batted 352 minutes, faced 250 balls and struck 14 fours and one six.
Until Narine's late intervention, the Black Caps had made most of the running, after deciding to bat on a hard, true pitch.
West Indies were made to toil before lunch, as Guptill and fellow opener Flynn hardly placed a foot wrong, carrying New Zealand to 71 without loss at lunch.
The Windies bowled tightly early on, but the visitors' openers played through an early period of consolidation before Flynn got into stride with a couple of boundaries off Darren Sammy's first over.
The second delivery from the West Indies captain was put away through mid-off for four and the penultimate ball was pulled through mid-wicket.
Kemar Roach, trying to find his rhythm following his injury lay-off after his early departure from the recent tour of England, helped Guptill warm up, with a short delivery that was slapped through extra cover for four and an over-pitched ball that was hit straight for another boundary.
West Indies had a few appeals for lbw, and Sammy unsuccessfully reviewed one of them just before the interval, when Guptill was 33, and TV replays showed the ball took an inside edge.
After lunch, Narine and Roach each snared a wicket, as New Zealand reached 159 for two at tea.
Narine struck, when Flynn top-edged a cut at a delivery that bounced awkwardly and was caught at backward point. He spent 156 minutes at the crease and struck seven fours from 126 balls.
Roach gained a boost of confidence, when he had Brendon McCullum caught at mid-off for 25 from a mistimed off-drive, a few overs after West Indies unsuccessfully reviewed a catch to gully offered by the same batsman, and TV replays showed the West Indies fast bowler had delivered a no-ball.
In-between, a delivery from Roach was put away through cover to gift Guptill his eighth four and take him past 50 from 107 balls.
For the next two plus hours, West Indies failed to make any further inroads, as Taylor and Guptill consolidated the visitors' position with resolute batting before Narine changed the course of the match.