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Test match hangs in the balance
Cricket is baseball on valium, quoted Robin Williams in The Guinness Dictionary of Sports Quotations. Had he been at Kensington Oval yesterday, he would have had eaten his words. Eleven wickets fell as a gripping Test match took shape on the third day of the final Test between the West Indies and New Zealand. The West Indies, despite collapsing to 317 all out, had struck back by the close of play to have the visitors 123 for three. New Zealand now leads by 99 runs with seven wickets intact, with two days remaining in the contest that is expected to break the 1-1 deadlock in this series.
New Zealand did well to restrict the West Indies earlier in the day as they snatched their last eight wickets for just 120 runs, thanks to four wickets from left-armer Neil Wagner. With a deficit of 24 runs, the New Zealanders lost an early wicket to the pacy Kemar Roach. He sent back the stubborn Tom Latham, who had an off-match after two good Test performances coming into this one. Roach then followed up with Hamish Rutherford later on for 19, as New Zealand slipped to 56 for two. Soon after the small crowd at Kensington was celebrating the arrival of another Barbadian Test bowler, as Jason Holder copped his first wicket in this format. He removed Ross Taylor via Darren Bravo at slip for six.
Skipper Brendon McCullum, who has struggled in this series, then joined the in-form Kane Williamson and they batted towards the end of play. Williamson remained 58 not out off 101 balls with 11 fours and McCullum struggled to 23 off 47 balls with three fours. The rain belted down for hours on Bridgetown on Friday night but ceased in time to allow the cricket to get underway at the scheduled early start of 9.30 am. The West Indies resuming on 169 for two progressed nicely to 197 when a double strike crippled their progress. Firstly, Darren Bravo, who promised much, was caught by Williamson off Wagner for 24.
Kirk Edwards, who had earlier brought up his eight Test 50 off 88 balls, then fell to an injudicious legside stroke. He tried to play Tim Southee to the onside and got a leading edge which skied up for Rutherford to claim. The Barbadian left for 58 off 111 balls inclusive off six fours and a six. Ramdin then joined the veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul and they moved the score smoothly unto 240 when the latter decided that he wanted to be first line for lunch and got out on the stroke of the break for 15. Coming too far inside the line of a Wagner delivery he touched it into the hands of BJ Watling. After lunch, the West Indies innings continued to go downhill, despite a very attractive 45 from Ramdin.
The diminutive right-hander found the boundary ropes at regular intervals with some wonderful offside play but fell leg before five short of a half century. He made 45 off 70 balls with eight fours. Roach came and left early but the tail wagged despite the fact that Wagner kept bowling a nagging line and length. Holder was able to hold the lower order together and take them past New Zealand’s total of 293. He finally fell for 38 off 76 balls, hitting four fours and at his fall the score was 312. The end soon came on the stroke of tea as the home team was bowled out for 317—a slender lead of 24 runs. Wagner playing his first Test of the series ended with 4/64, while Boult took 2/71.