Defiant half-centuries from the captain Jason Holder and John Campbell saved the West Indies from an embarrassing defeat on the day of the second and final Test of the series in Wellington. Jason Holder was not out on 60 at the end of the day’s play and with the wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua Da Silva stitched an unbeaten partnership of 74 runs to halt Blackcaps’ rally against the men in maroon.
The tourists resumed their first innings at 124/8 at the start of Day 3 and Tim Southee was quick to mop up the last two wickets in only the third over of the day when Da Silva feathered one through to BJ Watling while trying to leave Southee's away going delivery. Next man in, Shannon Southee took his 10th fifer in Tests when he bowled Shannon Gabriel to finish off the West Indies’ first innings at 131.
Blackcaps’ stand-in skipper Tom Latham enforced follow-on as the bowlers were fairly fresh after bowling out tourists comprehensively inside 60 overs. His decision was vindicated by the bowlers yet against as Trent Boult, who, in one of the most surprising events of the series so far, went wicketless in the first innings started taking stern examination of Windies’s openers John Campbell and Kraigg Braithwaite.
Boult troubled Campbell big time and he survived numerous close calls of LBW and misses outside the off stump but the first to fall was Brathwaite who was snaffled brilliantly by Will Young at the leg gully position when the right-hander tried to glance Boult towards fine leg.
Darren Bravo has had a nightmare on this tour and the last innings was not different as a searing bouncer from Boult caught him napping. He looked short of confidence for his brief stay at the crease and the Kiwi bowlers have left him with a lot to ponder about his batting in Tests.
Shamarh Brooks was the next man in who is yet another member of a 'highly-promising but failing to deliver' bunch of West Indies batsmen and he started to show his quality with classical shots with supreme flair. A six over square leg with a mere flick of the wrist when Southee erred in his line and bowled a leg-stump half volley was one of the signs of his calibre as a batsman. He was equally efficient on the off side and used the full deliveries Kiwis bowled in pursuit of outside edge to his advantage as he and Campbell stitched an enterprising 89 runs stands for the third wicket.
On the other hand, Campbell was doing justice to the number of chances he has been provided with by the team management and was batting supreme confidence and freedom. He was severe on anything short against him and took on the short-pitched bowling to keep the boundaries flowing for him.
Neil Wagner, who jumped to the number two position on the ICC Rankings for Bowlers in Tests, was working through a decent spell but was bowling too full for both Brooks and Campbell in search of their outside or inside edges as the duo kept on driving him between point to cover region.
Wagner showed maturity and pulled his length back and the move paid dividend immediately as Brooks was lured into poking a ball he should have left on the angle and the length, but his impressive innings was cut short yet again without a significant contribution.
Kyle Jamieson who bowled superbly in the first innings to claim a five-wicket haul, almost got the better of Campbell in the very next over with a delivery that bounced more than the left-hander had expected but the ball landed in a no man’s zone.
Jamieson was not to miss out for long though as he took two wickets in his next two overs. First, the vice-captain Roston Chase found himself against a delivery he could not afford to leave while a slight movement accompanied with bounce took the outside edge of the bat to really hurt the West Indies after a solid partnership between Campbell and Brooks. Jamieson bettered his last over by dismissing Campbell in his very next over as West Indies looked to start another defeat inside three days in a Test match.
Next man in, Jermaine Blackwood batted in his usual ‘go down slogging’ style of batting and earned boundaries albeit with the help of outside edges that flew over the slip cordon. Ultimately, Trent Boult was too accurate for his batting and his ‘dirty slog’ as Cregg McMillan said at that time while commentating cost him his wicket.
Captain Jason Holder survived a few close calls off Jamieson who was working great rhythm but was particularly severe against short balls bowled by Kiwis bowlers.
In the end part of the day’s play, New Zealand bowlers decided to dig the ball short in order to test the backfoot game of both Holder and Joshua Da Silva and the duo showed good technique and they pulled and hooked their ways out of trouble and carried their team to the fourth day of the game.
Still, West Indies are trailing by 85 runs from a mountainous score of 460 scored by the hosts and would need both Holder and Da Silva to go on and score big runs if they have to avert a big defeat, leave alone salvaging some pride on the tour.
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Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has been ruled out of the T20 series against New Zealand starting December 18 in a fresh setback to the already batting squad on the tour of New Zealand. Azam was struck on his right hand during a practice session on Sunday, December 13 and the subsequent X-Ray showed a fracture in his right thumb, ruling him out from the T20 series, the Pakistan Cricket Board said in its release. As a result of the fracture, Azam will be away from notes for a period of 12 days and the doctors will be monitoring his recovery before taking a decision on his participation in the Test series that will start on December 26 following the T20 series, PCB added. Coach Misbah-ul-Haq said that Babar Azam’s qualities as a batsman will be missed in the T20 series but at the same time it opens windows of opportunity for other promising youngsters in the touring group to make names for themselves. “Injuries are part and parcel of professional sport and while it is hugely disappointing to lose a player of Babar Azam’s calibre for the T20Is, this opens up opportunities for the other highly talented and exciting players to step-up, understand their responsibilities and try to prove that the Pakistan side is a complete package. I have spoken with Babar and he is sad to miss the T20I series as he was fully focused and keenly looking forward to the T20Is. We have a long season of cricket ahead and we now hope that he regains complete fitness as early as possible so that he can return to competitive cricket,” Misbah said in the PCB release. Babar Azam is not the only injury concerns for the tourist in New Zealand as the opener Imam-ul-Haq too has injured his left hand in a throwdown session and will be out of action for 12 days and like in the case of Babar Azam, doctors will monitor his progress before taking a decision on his availability for the Test series. Along with these two batsmen, Vice-captain of the Pakistan T20 team, Shadab Khan, has faced niggles in his groin and may miss out of the first T20 match. However, a decision will be taken on him just in the event of the match. “The medical team is monitoring Shadab Khan’s groin niggle and we remain optimistic that he will be available for the T20Is, but we will neither risk him nor the team’s chances if we think he needs a few more days to be back to his complete fitness,” Misbah said on Shadab Khan’s injury. New Zealand have selected a very formidable squad to take on the touring Pakistan side and the absence of Babar Azam will hurt the tourists' chances going into the three-match series.
New Zealand have dropped Ross Taylor for the T20 series against Pakistan while the pair of Kane Williamson and Trent Boult have made a comeback for the series starting December 20. However, the duo will be able to feature only in the second and the third T20 of the series as the ongoing Test match in Wellington is scheduled to end just three days prior to the start of the T20 series against Pakistan. Selector Gavin Larsen said that dropping Ross Taylor was very tough but finding room for him while other batsmen are in red-hot form was a lot tougher task. “Their inclusion (other young batsmen)and the return of Kane means we’ve left out Ross Taylor. This was, as you’d imagine, a very tough decision as Ross has been a consistent performer for us, but unfortunately we just couldn’t find room in the squad for him due to the quality and form of the other batsman,” Larsen said in NZC release. Mitchell Santner will be leading the Balckcaps against Pakistan in absence of both Kane Williamson and Tim Southee.. Other squad members such as Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell will miss the first T20 as well as they are part of the second Test against West Indies. The Blackcaps have added the trio of Blair Tickner, Mark Chapman and Doug Bracewell for the first T20 to cover for the Test-playing members and ultimately will make way for them after they return for the second and final T20 of the series. Notably, Mark Chapman has also been called as a stand-by for Kane Williamson who is expecting his first child and might miss out of the rest of the three-match series as well. “It’s great to have the class of Kane and Trent returning to our T20 side having missed the West Indies series after their starring roles in the IPL in November. Kane will return and lead the side for games two and three, but we’ll obviously need to take a wait and see approach in relation to the arrival of his and Sarah’s first child. Mark Chapman’s in the squad for the opening match at Eden Park and is on stand-by for Kane for the remaining games of the series,” Larsen said on the decision-making process around Williamson’s availability. The Blackcaps have retained Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway who were in blistering form against West Indies and the selector Gavin Larsen said that the duo has the chance to back up that performance against Pakistan in the three-match series. “We were thrilled Glenn and Devon were able to take their opportunities well in the previous series and we’re keen to give them the chance to back that up against a strong Pakistan T20 outfit,” Larsen is banking on Conway and Phillips to produce goods. Lockie Ferguson has been ruled out of the T20 series in a major setback for the hosts as well for himself who has been looking in the menacing form in the IPL 2020 and the T20 series against New Zealand. Along with him, Hamish Bennet too has been ruled out due to abdominal tear. In his place, the Blackcaps have handed over maiden call up to Otago Volts pacer Jacob Duffy who has been on the sectors' radar through strong performances in domestic cricket. It’s a special time for Jacob who’s taken his game to another level this summer and I know he’s excited to join the BLACKCAPS camp for the first time. The injury to Lockie is obviously a concern considering what he brings to our bowling attack and we’re awaiting more information around his rehabilitation,” Larsen added. The responsibility of the spin department lies in the hands of Santner and Ish Sodhi while Todd Astle has been recalled into the T20 squad to face Pakistan. The touring Pakistan team will play three T20Is against New Zealand on December 18, 20 and 22, which will be quickly followed by a two-match Test series starting December 26.
Pacer Mitchell Starc will rejoin the Australian squad tomorrow, December 14 and is likely to feature in the first Test of the Australian summer against India in Adelaide. The left-armer had to take a break for a family emergency after the first T20 between Australia and India, and will now be joining back the squad just with just two days in hand to prepare for the first Test. He will take the same chartered flight that will carry all the squad members of the touring Indian team and Australia A side who are playing a tour game at the SCG. Starc’s return will be a big relief for the hosts who have been jolted by many injury concerns to their first-choice players. David Warner and Will Pucovski have been ruled out of the first Test while the enterprising all-rounder Cameron Green who impressed with a superb century against the Indians in the first tour game is under injury clouds. Although Starc will have only two days to prepare for the Adelaide Test but his credentials with the pink ball has been exemplary. In a 7-match-long stint with the pink ball in Test matches, Starc has 42 wickets against his name. In case Starc fails to make it to the playing XI, one of James Pattinson or Michael Nasser will partner Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood with the pink ball in Adelaide.