Tea: New Zealand 99 for 1 (Latham 45*, Williamson 39*) v West Indies
Kane Williamson and Tom Latham put on a masterclass of negotiating potentially tough conditions against an attack that was coming in with a lot of pedigree, taking New Zealand to a position of strength after an extended first session in the first Test.
Put in to bat on a Seddon Park pitch that was so green as to be almost indistinguishable from the outfield, Williamson and Latham showed exemplary control to take New Zealand to 99 for 1 at tea on the first day, the first session having been washed out due to a light but persistent rain.
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Latham was compact, content to leave deliveries all day long if needed but pouncing on any errors in length. Williamson was his classy self, a bit more adventurous than Latham in terms of getting bat on ball, but every bit as controlled in his shot-making. Williamson leaned into his drives with trademark elegance, and on the rare occasions when a delivery spit at him or did something unexpected, his hands and wristwork were nimble enough to negotiate the ball.
There was a stroke of luck for Latham when he flashed at a short and wide one to the keeper, off Jason Holder in the penultimate over of the session. There was an audible noise as the ball went past bat, but only Darren Bravo at first slip half appealed and the rest of the West Indies fielders, including the bowler and captain, were silent. Replays showed a spike on Ultraedge as the ball passed the bat, but with no appeal coming, Latham batted on.
From being on the back foot at the toss due to the appearance of the surface they had to survive on, Williamson and Latham had not only shown up the lack of demons in the pitch but also provided a blueprint of how to bat on such a surface when faced with an attack that seemed intent more on preying on their patience.
The nature of the pitch, or more importantly how both teams read it, was shown in the selection of their respective XIs. Both left out their respective frontline spinners in Mitchell Santner and Rahkeem Cornwall, and both had four seamers. The rain in the first session meant both remaining sessions were extended, aiming to get in an 85-over day. Halfway through, only 35 had been bowled, but they had gone mostly swimmingly for the home team.
While the pitch didn't exactly behave like the green monster it appeared to be, the West Indies bowlers didn't help their cause with their lines of attack. A lot of the balls were bowled on a line, or a length - or both - from which it was easy for the batsmen to not play a shot. Holder's natural back of length was such that balls from there would carry over the stumps. Kemar Roach mixed some testing deliveries with a whole bunch that were too far outside off to threaten the stumps, while Shannon Gabriel sprayed the ball around to offer scoring opportunities.
Gabriel provided the West Indies' only moment of cheer so far, with the wicket of debutant Will Young. In the fourth over of the day, Gabriel got one to kick off a length while moving away to take a healthy edge, only for Shane Dowrich to fluff the chance behind the stumps. Gabriel's disappointment was extremely short-lived as Young was caught on the crease to a big inswinger next ball to trapped plumb in front.
At 14 for 1, West Indies had an opening, but Williamson and Latham have shut that down effectively for now.