HAMILTON: On the eve of the first test at Seddon Park here on Wednesday, the West Indies appreciated the freedom to be out-and-about in Covid-free New Zealand, but said the burden was to be completely concentrated once the match began.
With New Zealand’s last Test against India in February, it has been months since either side played red-ball cricket, leaving the room for rust. Only three tests were played by the West Indies in July against England.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder said his opening match Test squad on Thursday showed no similarity to New Zealand’s Twenty20 team whipped 2-0 in the past week and was vastly improved on the side crushed by 240 runs when three years earlier they last played the longest format in Hamilton.
“From then until now, we have had some good success, so I think the point for us is just to continue to build as a side,” Holder said as the West Indies practised about 15 metres from a very green test pitch on Tuesday. We’ve got our plans, and we now have to implement them. Execution is where we have gone down in the past.
The tourists have finally been able to leave the bubble life that for much of the past five months has limited many of them as they played in England and then Dubai, which hosted the Indian Premier League, because of the pandemic in empty stadiums.
“For the first time, it’s like a kid running into a playground,” Holder said as he described being able to get out before big crowds in New Zealand to play cricket. “It’s freshening up. I’ve had a chance to play golf, I’ve had a chance to sit in a restaurant I haven’t had for four or five months, so I’m a little chilled and relaxed.
If they sweep the two tests against the West Indies and the next two against Pakistan, New Zealand have a chance to play their way into the World Test Championship final.
But Captain Kane Williamson did not look that far ahead when in recent months of Twenty20 cricket, he wrestled with getting back into test mode after a diet.
For your game, you try to go back to previous encounters to narrow it down. The red-ball game is clearly very distinct from the white-ball style, and it definitely has its challenges,’ he added. Instead of being ahead of yourself and worrying of where you could end up on ladders, it’s being able to eliminate it to a degree and concentrate on what it is that gives you the best opportunities to play competitive, and the best, test cricket.
Young, 28, averages 43.76 with 10 centuries in first-class matches, the most recent of which came against West Indies last week for New Zealand ‘A’.
Williamson said, “You often come into teams and you try to get a feel for the group, but he’s got the feeling, he’s an experienced player, he’s played a lot of first-class cricket and to a very high standard.”
With all-rounders Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santner and fast bowlers Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner battling for five slots, a call on the rest of the lineup will be taken early on Thursday.
‘It’s a huge issue to have,’ said Williamson.
On the eve of the Test, both teams announced they will continue to take the knee in favour of the Black Lives Matter campaign, as they did in the previous week before the beginning of the Twenty20 tournaments.