Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum set aside injury concerns to post centuries in an unbroken 182-run fourth-wicket partnership that propelled New Zealand to a commanding 367-3 at stumps yesterday on the first day of the first cricket Test against the West Indies.
Taylor overcame a recent knee injury to make 103 not out and McCullum played through a chronic back injury, which has sparked retirement speculation, to reach an unbeaten 109.
“It was a good day’s cricket, especially when you’ve been put in on a day when the pitch is doing a bit,” Taylor said. “I’ve got to give credit to the opening batters, they got through the early stages when the West Indies attack did put us under pressure.”
“There was a little bit in the wicket, but we rode our luck and got a pretty competitive total on the board,” he said.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy was happy to send New Zealand in to bat on a green pitch at the University Oval after winning the toss, but his confidence faded when Hamish Rutherford (62) and Peter Fulton (61) put on 95 for the first wicket and Fulton and Taylor added 68 for the third. McCullum and Taylor then crushed the tourists’ spirits with their partnership, which began upon Fulton’s dismissal just before the tea break.
Taylor took only 66 deliveries to reach his half century and McCullum, under pressure to regain his form after scoring 92 runs in eight innings in his last four Tests, reached his from 58 deliveries with nine fours.
The pair raised their century partnership in 86 minutes as McCullum, who scored 60 of those runs, inched closer to Taylor’s run total. He finally matched Taylor at 94 after they had raised a 150 partnership in 120 minutes.
McCullum reached his century just before the arrival of the second new ball after batting for 128 minutes and hitting 13 fours and three sixes. Taylor followed soon after, reaching his ninth Test century in 208 minutes.
Taylor had a few close calls in the 90s: an appeal for caught behind, which required the scrutiny of the television umpire, and an inside edge, which passed perilously close to his off stump. He reached his century with his 13th boundary just before stumps.
“I think I was fighting a few demons at the start of the day,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but it’s nice when you can push through those barriers and come through the other side with some well-earned runs.”
New Zealand’s dominating performance may have Sammy rethinking his decision to bowl after winning the toss. After his squad lost its last Test series in India on dry and turning wickets, Sammy could not help but be dazzled by the green color of the pitch at the University Oval.
“I’ve never seen a pitch with so much grass,” he said as he announced his decision to bowl.
The tourists’ lackluster performance in the first session suggested that they were relying too much on the pitch to do the work of the bowlers.
Opening bowler Tino Best lacked consistency and his new ball partner, Shannon Gabriel, playing in his fifth Test, could not find his line, resulting in off-spinner Shane Shillingford being called into action after 18 overs.
Shillingford gave the West Indies a little life by dismissing Rutherford two overs before lunch and taking 1-31 from 15 overs, but the tourists could not build any momentum after that.
Shillingford was named in the West Indies lineup for the first of three Tests against New Zealand as he awaits the outcome of an independent investigation into his bowling action.