Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel overcame a poor start to take three wickets which tipped the balance of the second Test against New Zealand in favour of the West Indies after the first day Saturday. The initiative in the match passed from one team to the other until Gabriel made his mark with the second new ball to leave New Zealand 286/7 at stumps after it had lost the toss and been asked to bat.
For most of the day, New Zealand held the upper hand. Opener Jeet Raval made 84 in partnerships of 65 for the first wicket with Tom Latham (22) and 89 for the second wicket with Kane Williamson (43) which lifted New Zealand to 154/1 after it had been sent in on a greenish pitch at Seddon Park.
Gabriel took the new ball and conceded 22 runs from his first two overs which allowed New Zealand to take the initiative early on. But the West Indies turned the tide of the match when it took 4-35 on either side of tea, removing Williamson, Raval, Ross Taylor (16) and Henry Nicholls (13) to reduce the home side to 189/5.
Allrounder Colin de Grandhomme then wrested back the initiative for New Zealand with a half-century from 50 balls in a 66-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Mitchell Santner which lifted New Zealand to 265/5. Gabriel bowled both Santner (24) and de Grandhomme (57) with the second new ball and that again turned the tide of the match in the West Indies' favour.
At stumps wicketkeeper Tom Blundell, a century-maker on debut in the first test at Wellington, was 12 not out and Neil Wagner was 1 not out. New Zealand won the first test by an innings and 67 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series.
Raval's innings, which saw him fall four runs short of his highest score in tests, was crucial to New Zealand establishing itself after being sent in to bat by the West Indies' stand-in captain Kraigg Brathwaite. Brathwaite took over the captaincy from Jason Holder who is suspended for one match for his team's slow over rate in the first test at the Basin Reserve.
After Raval's strong start, Brathwaite would have regretted his decision to bowl first on a pitch which didn't provide as much assistance to the bowlers as its appearance suggested. It was only late in the day, when the pitch had been hardened by warm temperatures, that the West Indies bowlers and Gabriel especially began to find some pace and movement.
Gabriel claimed Raval's wicket, again denying him his first test century after six half centuries in his nine tests to date. By bowling both de Grandhomme, who made a maiden test century from 71 balls in the first test, and Santner, Gabriel allowed Brathwaite to reflect at stumps that his decision to bowl had not been misplaced.
New Zealand was happy with its position despite losing the late wickets.
"I thought it was a very strong day to be put in to put into bat after losing the toss," Raval said. "I think the game is evenly balanced at the moment and if we can eke out a few more runs tomorrow morning it certainly gives us the advantage when we go into bowl. It was a fresh wicket and the bowlers missed a couple of times and we were able to capitalize."
Raval was disappointed to have again been denied a test century when it had seemed so close.
"I felt good out there and it was frustrating not to see out the day out the day and bat again tomorrow to put a big score on the board," he said. "But I'll take confidence from this and take it into next innings."