Dunedin: For New Zealand, it must have felt like spending numerous hours debugging a simplistic computer code, and just when it all looked ready, seeing the message ‘core dumped’. Dunedin had been dry for almost 14 sessions, but the rain arrived just before tea on the fifth day to leave New Zealand stranded 33 runs away from their first Test win under Brendon McCullum. The rain intensity seesawed frustratingly before the match was finally called off, the third time New Zealand failed to close out a home Test this year.
Thirty-three runs. At the rate they were going, New Zealand would have needed approximately 12 overs, or 50 minutes, to score those runs. West Indies’ last three wickets had batted for 81 minutes in the morning, after the double-centurion Darren Bravo had been dismissed in the day’s third over. The 38-run partnership between Darren Sammy and Shane Shillingford for the eighth wicket had eaten up 56 minutes. And this is without even considering the dropped catches on the fourth day.
Shillingford was instrumental in delaying New Zealand with the ball as well. Venomous on a fifth-day pitch, he bowled unchanged for 15 of the 30 overs in the chase, picking up four top-order wickets to dash any hopes New Zealand might have had of a quick dash to the target.
For West Indies, it was an epic escape. They had trailed by 396 runs after a forgettable first innings, were forced to follow-on, and then put up a gutsy fight to take a lead. A draw was a massive boost for a side that did not last three days in both Tests on their recent tour to India. In fact, West Indies had an outside chance at victory after Shillingford’s spell.
Shillingford had not had an impact in New Zealand’s first innings, on a pitch that was hard with an even cover of grass, bowling 46 over for one wicket. After four days of sunshine, however, the grass had withered and Shillingford was West Indies’ only chance of defending 112. Sammy gave him the new ball and it took Shillingford only seven balls to strike.
In the last over before lunch, Peter Fulton missed a flick and Denesh Ramdin appealed for a catch down the leg side. Umpire Paul Reiffel said not out but Hot-Spot highlighted a faint nick after West Indies asked for a review. Two overs later, Aaron Redmond fell into a trap, clipping a sharply turning delivery straight into the hands of Narsingh Deonarine at leg gully.
Another two overs later, Shillingford lured Hamish Rutherford into playing a lofted shot and the batsman obliged, hitting a boundary wide of the long-on fielder. The next ball was tossed up again and Rutherford couldn’t resist. He tried to repeat the previous shot, but this time he lobbed it straight to the long-on fielder, falling in exactly the same way as in the first innings. ‘What a shot,’ said a close-in fielder as Rutherford whacked his bat on his pads in disappointment.
At 22 for 3, New Zealand were in trouble, but had the experienced pair of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor to see them through the tricky period. Both batsmen continued from where they left in the first innings: Taylor staying solid, while McCullum blasted the first ball he faced through covers. But McCullum’s aggression consumed him and he top-edged an attempted sweep off a delivery that went the other way and Ramdin took an easy catch.
While Shillingford bowled unchanged from one end, the other bowlers were not able to create chances. Corey Anderson drilled three boundaries off the seamers and rose in confidence, taking on Shillingford with a powerful sweep to move to 20, while Taylor was on 16 with the help of two boundaries. That’s when it began to rain, and there was delight and despair in the dressing rooms as it did not stop.
New Zealand had looked good for an early finish when Bravo was bowled by Trent Boult in the third over of the morning. But Sammy, derided during the Tests in India for his irresponsible batting, didn’t let New Zealand take control. He ran his runs hard despite an injury to his hamstring to reach only his sixth half-century in 36 Tests.
Shillingford added 15 runs before he edged Neil Wagner to first slip. Tino Best hung around for 21 minutes, his stay ending in a similar fashion. With only the No. 11 for company, Sammy threw his bat at the first delivery with the third new ball and sliced it to deep cover, but he ensured 54 useful runs had been added after Bravo’s exit. Every minute and run counted in the end.
New Zealand 609 for 9 dec and 79 for 4 (Anderson 20*, Taylor 16*, Shillingford 4-16) drew with West Indies 213 and 507 (f/o) (Bravo 218, Sammy 80, Wagner 3-112)