New Zealand’s push for an innings victory over the West Indies in the first cricket Test was stalled on the third day on Saturday by a bold, counter-attacking partnership for the tourists’ seventh wicket between Jermaine Blackwood and Alzarri Joseph.
New Zealand seemed to be coasting to a win within three days in the first of two Tests when captain Kane Williamson enforced the follow-on with a 381 run lead after dismissing the West Indies for 138 in reply to its first innings of 7-519 declared.
When the West Indies were reduced to 4-30 at tea, then 6-89 in their second innings, it seemed they were set to become only the fifth team in Test history to be dismissed twice in one day.
The last to suffer the fate was Afghanistan in its inaugural Test against India two years ago.
The tourists’ position was more dire because wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich couldn’t bat in either innings and they have only nine wickets.
But Blackwood and Joseph combined in an partnership which broke the dominance of the New Zealand bowlers and was worth 107 runs at stumps when the West Indies were 6-196.
While New Zealand still lead by 185 runs, the seventh wicket pair brought order to an otherwise bedraggled West Indies performance on a day when the tourists lost 15 wickets for 285 runs.
Blackwood, the West Indies’ last recognised batsman, led the stubborn resistance and was 80 not out at stumps, having hit nine fours and two sixes.
Joseph, attempting to establish himself as an allrounder, achieved his maiden Test half century and was 59 not out at the close.
The pair played aggressively and managed to hit the New Zealand bowlers off lengths which had been so successful and productive throughout the day.
Their 100 partnership came up from only 111 balls.
Blackwood, especially, played with abandon out of keeping with the match situation, throwing his hands at the ball when it was too short or wide.
He produced some magnificent stroke play, including two technically perfect cover drives and he demonstrated a wide array of shots.
He also managed to break the spell New Zealand had cast over the touring team throughout the day.
Suddenly catches that previously had been taken started to go to ground — at least five in the last two hours — and New Zealand looked much less composed and in control.
The West Indies resumed their first innings at 0-49 on Saturday after a dogged effort by openers John Campbell and Kraigg Braithwaite to bat through 26 overs at the end of the second day.
Campbell was out in the first over on Saturday and a decline set in as wickets tumbled regularly through the first session and early part of the second.
Tim Southee took 4-35 and Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner made use of helpful bowling conditions; low cloud and humidity which caused the ball to swing.
Jamieson took 2-25, Wagner 2-22 and Boult 1-33 as the New Zealand bowling attack hunted as a group, putting early pressure on the West Indies batsmen and keeping it on through most of the day.
There was little respite when the West Indies’ second innings began.
Boult squared up Campbell with the third ball of the innings and an edge carried low to Tom Latham at second slip who grabbed the catch just above the grass.
Wagner then removed Darren Bravo who sparred a shorter delivery to Southee at second slip.
Shamarh Brooks then flicked a ball of his hip to substitute fielder Devon Conway at square leg.
Braithwaite flashed at a short delivery from Southee next ball and top-edged a catch to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
Roston Chase and captain Jason Holder followed cheaply as New Zealand kept up its early momentum.
But that stalled when Braithwaite came to the crease and was joined by Joseph who was his equal in pugnacity.
They turned the day around with their late partnership which had occupied 97 minutes by stumps.