Having taken a 1-0 series lead in Antigua, the Darren Sammy-led West Indies go into the second and final Test at Kingston’s Sabina Park starting on Thursday as favorites. That is a tag rarely attached to West Indian sides since the turn of the century, but such was the manner of victory over New Zealand last week that it is difficult to see the tourists, depleted by the loss of Daniel Vettori, squaring the series.
The last time West Indies won two consecutive Test matches at home, Jimmy Adams was captain, Walsh and Ambrose were sharing the new balls and Adrian Griffith and Sherwin Campbell were opening in Tests. Yes, that long ago – March 2000 when they beat Zimbabwe by ten wickets at the same venue for Thursday’s Test match.
Sammy’s side will be confident of changing that poor record, given how they have bossed New Zealand over the last few weeks. The return of Chris Gayle was a rousing success, and Sunil Narine bagging the Man-of-the-Match award in his second Test simply extended the mystery spinner’s stranglehold over New Zealand’s batsman. That West Indies won by nine wickets with their batting mainstay and No. 4 ranked batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, also gave Ottis Gibson reason to be proud. This is West Indies’ best shot at winning a series in years.
New Zealand have to pick themselves up after a nine-wicket loss in Antigua, where they were left to rue dropping Gayle and going from 228 for 3 to 351 in the first innings and 171 for 1 to 272 in the second. The opener Martin Guptill and No. 3 Brendon McCullum were the only batsmen to score fifties in that Test, and much more will be needed from Daniel Flynn, Kane Williamson and Dean Brownlie.
Both teams have injury problems. For the hosts, Ravi Rampaul has been ruled out with a groin injury and will be replaced by one of Tino Best or Fidel Edwards. Best has been part of the squad and his last appearance saw him pick up the Man-of-the-Match award, but the management could opt for Edwards who has taken 25 wickets at 22.28 at Sabina Park.
New Zealand will be without Daniel Vettori who also strained his groin. It is not yet known who will replace Vettori, who currently sits on 360 wickets in 112 Tests, in New Zealand’s line-up. The leading candidate is legspinner Tarun Nethula. Neil Wagner could also be swapped for Tim Southee after failing to make in impact with the ball.
A win for either side will have some landmark value; it will be West Indies’ first series win by a margin of two matches or more for over 12 years and the first under Sammy and for New Zealand, it will be their second win in the Caribbean for over a decade and just their second overall, dating back to 1972.
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Asad Fuddadin, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Tino Best/Fidel Edwards, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach
New Zealand: 1 Daniel Flynn, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 8 Neil Wagner/Tim Southee, 9 Tarun Nethula, 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Chris Martin