Jimmy Neesham scored 107 runs against West Indies in the first innings © AFP
New Zealand are sitting pretty in a commanding position against West Indies at the end of Day Two of the first Test at Jamaica. They declared their first innings at 508 for seven with two centurions. The first two days of the Test have belonged to New Zealand. R Vishal looks back at the talking points from the day’s play.
West Indies Spinners wrest back initiative
On a slow and low pitch on Day One, Shane Shillingford and Sulieman Benn were toothless and comfortably dealt with by the New Zealand batsmen. With both bowlers spending ample time away from the international cricket before the match, a lack of match fitness might have played its part. During the first quarter of the second day, things had changed. The length was a lot fuller — from Shillingford in particular and he had the batsmen on the back-foot. By dismissing overnight centurion Kane Williamson, the dangerous Ross Taylor and captain Brendon McCullum in the first session, West Indies clawed their way back into the first Test at Jamaica.
Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling’s stoic resistance
The West Indian spinners were operating in tandem and the batsmen weathered the storm in the second session of the day. The duo of Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling had to defend their way through this phase. Watling led from the front by frustrating the bowlers with his fine technique and concentration. The New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman went about his business taking minimal risks and waited patiently for the bad deliveries to come his way. Neesham, on the other hand got his eye in and then got on top of the bowlers. The southpaw targeted Shillingford and Marlon Samuels and used his feet at will. Shilllingford was taken by surprise when the New Zealand all-rounder danced down the wicket and smashed two sixes straight down the ground. It was smooth sailing from there on and West Indies were blown out the contest with their 201-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Jimmy Neesham joins elite club
Neesham must be finding Test cricket as a piece of cake at the moment. Following up on his quick-fire hundred at Wellington against India earlier in the year, Neesham cruised to his second hundred in two Tests and became only the eighth player to do so. Neesham wasn’t even first choice to start this game but Corey Anderson’s injury at the ninth hour gave him the chance. Taking Anderson’s spot, he has an acute understanding of when he needs to drop anchor and when he needs to take his chance. After getting a thick edge of Benn, Neesham did a Stuart Broad and stood his ground. Umpire Richard Illingworth shook his head, much to the bemusement of the bowlers. A referral was taken by the fielding team and Neesham walked back for 107.
BJ Watling misses out
Neesham and Watling were the other centurions against India at Wellington where captain McCullum brought up his monumental triple century. Both batsmen were poised to repeat the feat in Jamaica too. With the team yearning for the batsmen to bring up 500 on the board, the batsmen withdrew into a shell. Neesham became extra cautious after heading into the 80s. Aggressive gamesmanship is not Watling’s strong suit and only 52 runs came off 15 overs. Tim Southee’s blistering cameo though took the score past the 500-run mark but Watling holed out in the deep in the quest for quick runs.
Peter Fulton drops a sitter
After a miserable stay at the crease on Day One, Peter Fulton grassed an easy chance at second slip off Kirk Edwards. New Zealand were gunning for breakthroughs in the last half-hour of the day’s play and Edwards nicked a gem from Southee. A regulation chance went begging.
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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)