Kane Williamson and Tom Latham helped New Zealand overcome an early wicket and defuse the threat of an influential toss, sharing an 85-run partnership to navigate the first session of the first test against West Indies. (More Cricket News)
Williamson was 39, Latham 45 was and New Zealand was 99-1 when the first break of the day came in the late afternoon at Hamilton.
The toss had been delayed almost two hours while the playing area was dried after morning rain. West Indies captain Jason Holder called correctly and eagerly chose to bowl on a pitch so well-grassed it blended into the outfield.
There was some slow seam and an occasional delivery reared from a length. But there was less in the pitch during the first session than its bright green hue had promised. The best policy was to pitch the ball up and let any movement have its effect.
The West Indies were inconsistent in their length and likely went to lunch feeling they had not made the best of their opportunities.
Williamson and Latham both built almost chanceless innings with good plans and technique. The New Zealand captain, Williamson, typically played the ball late and with soft hands to take the danger out of any rising delivery.
Latham left well on a length, showing sound judgement on most occasions.
Run-making wasn’t the first priority but Latham pulled consecutive deliveries from Alzarri Joseph in the 27th over. Williamson added a crisp cover drive for four just before lunch.
Latham appeared to edge a ball from Jason Holder to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich a few minutes before the break but there was little support for the appeal.
The only batsman out in the first session was Will Young, cheaply in his first test innings.
Young’s delayed test debut for New Zealand was an eventful one. The 28-year-old right-hander was due to make his debut almost a year ago against Bangladesh in Christchurch. But the test was cancelled in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in the South Island city.
He was given his chance at last on Thursday as a replacement for wicketkeeper B.J. Watling, who was ruled out of the current test with a hamstring strain. Young made five runs, faced 11 balls, survived a review for an lbw decision and a catching chance to Dowrich before he was finally out lbw to Shannon Gabriel.
The first review of the match was optimistic. The ball pitched outside Young’s off-stump and was missing; the umpire’s not out ruling was verified.
Young then edged a ball just wide of Dowrich, who seemed to be in position to make the catch but pulled out at the last minute in an apparent miscommunication with first slip.
No review was necessary when Gabriel’s next delivery was fuller, straighter, beat the edge of the bat and struck Young directly in front of off stump.