THE betting last night was that the second Digicel Test at Sabina Park will end by lunch today, but while the West Indies need only another 71 to win with six wickets in hand, it's not all cut and dried.
On yesterday's third day, New Zealand crashed from their overnight 59-2 to 154 all out to leave the door wide open for West Indies as off-spinners Narsingh Deonarine 4-37 and Sunil Narine (3-19) spun a web. The duo was aided by the hostility of Tino Best (2-44).
Chasing 206 to win, West Indies battled their way to 135-4 in 43 overs against disciplined bowling from the four-pronged New Zealand pace attack in hot, draining conditions.
First-innings centurion Marlon Samuels again led the West Indies' batting with a 103 ball 52 (seven fours) before falling to the persistent and aggressive Doug Bracewell (1-25) five overs before the close.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, not out 20, and nightwatchman Kemar Roach, 10, will resume today, with the West Indies dreaming of a 2-0 series win, having won the first Test in Antigua a week ago.
On a day in which the cricket stopped for several minutes at a drinks break so everyone could watch Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's triumph in the 100m Olympic final on the scoreboard screen, 12 wickets fell for 230 runs as Sabina lived up to its reputation as a 'result pitch'.
Scores: New Zealand 260 and 154; West Indies 209 and 135-4.
Yesterday, New Zealand, inept against the spinners, lost wickets regularly with Brendon McCullum (19) and Kane Williamson (8) falling to the underrated Deonarine, who bowled for the entire pre-lunch session, cleverly varying his flight with good control.
Narine (3-19), who got the ball just before lunch, found turn and bounce to send back Dean Brownlie, who made 35 off 66 balls (five fours), Kruger Van Wyk (five), and Bracewell 14.
Pacer Roach, looking below his best chipped in with the final wicket of Tim Southee (seven). But it was the pumped-up, chest-beating Best who made perhaps the most vital intervention, roaring in to find the edge of Ross Taylor's waving bat, through to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, for a second ball duck.
West Indies started positively with the left-handed Chris Gayle (eight) and Kieran Powell (six) reaching 20 in the third over. But left-arm pacer Trent Boult swinging the ball away from the left-handers boomerang style, sent back Gayle lbw with one that pitched middle and would have uprooted off stump. Powell followed immediately after, trapped in front by Tim Southee's 'in-ducker'.
The elegant Samuels again delighting the crowd with lovely, flowing drives and nonchalant cuts and shared 74 for the third wicket with an obdurate Assad Fudadin. The latter hit 27 from 74 balls with two fours. Samuels should have departed at 20. The impressive Bracewell found the outside edge of the right-hander's flashing blade, but BJ Watling at gully spilled the chance.
New Zealand's consistent off-stump line, allied to odd deliveries jumping from a length to rap the gloves as well as seam in and away, gradually wore down the West Indian pair.
Flashing at a wide ball, Fudadin dragged on to Wagner at 94 for three and Samuels followed 19 runs later, edging his attempted backfoot drive to Bracewell for Taylor to take a great catch diving to his left at first slip. Chanderpaul — who had previously fallen for naught and nine in the series — and Roach then chipped away in a partnership of 22 to settle West Indian nerves at day's end.
But the dismissal of Fudadin and especially Samuels in late afternoon would have left the fighting Kiwis believing they have a real chance on a fourth-day Sabina pitch.