Chris Gayle’s return to Test cricket after a 19 month hiatus proved just the boon West Indies needed as a rejuvenated side wrapped up a nine-wicket win over New Zealand in the first Test at North Sound in Antigua
Gayle marked his return with a typically bellicose first-innings century that helped his side to a 171-run lead and followed that up with an unbeaten 64 as the West Indies cruised to their first win since October last year. Gayle was not alone in his efforts, however, and coach Ottis Gibson made sure to praise what was a solid all-round team performance, with several players making contributions with bat and ball at key moments.
“There is no substitute for experience,” said Gibson. “Having the experience of Chris [Gayle] at the top of the order makes a huge difference. I just think it was an outstanding performance. The way [Kieran] Powell batted so well with so much maturity in the first innings, of course with Chris [Gayle] being so dominating, and all the way down the line, with young Fudadin getting his first test fifty, Narsingh [Deonarine] continuing with his good form, then [Darren] Sammy coming in at the back end and scoring some runs.
“I thought Kemar Roach bowled a spell at the back end of the first innings that was a very aggressive spell that got us some key wickets. Ravi Rampaul was very aggressive. Kemar was very accurate. Sunil Narine made contributions. So, it’s a whole team effort and the whole team is very happy with their work.”
Narine, who bowled 85 overs in the match and secured figures of 8 for 223, was named Man of the Match, but it was the patience of fast bowler Kemar Roach on the fifth day that set up a simple run-chase. Roach, who is the fourth-highest wicket-taker in Tests this year with 34 wickets at 22.47, stuck to a gameplan and was rewarded with five scalps in the second innings.
“The plan was to bowl on one side of the wicket and look to build pressure,” Roach said. “We believed that would lead to the wickets. They didn’t score many runs in the first session [but] we took our opportunities after lunch. It was a good team plan and it worked out very well for us.”
“The pitch was good for batting throughout the match but we were banking on Sunny [Sunil Narine] to get the bulk of the wickets today and win the match for us. He bowled extremely well in the match and was great in both innings, but today was my day and I seized the moment.”
“The pitch was just flat and quite good for the batsmen. The key was to get it straight and keep it straight. As the ball got older and softer I noticed the batsmen found it harder to score so I just stayed on top of off stump. It was hard work out there, very hard work, but I am thrilled I put my hand up for the team and delivered a good victory.”
The second Test begins in Kingston on August 2, and Gibson suggested a buoyed side were ready to secure a series win there. “Having not won in a long time and having not beaten New Zealand since 1996, we cherish [this victory] and we look forward to Jamaica,” concluded Gibson. “We came here wanting to win and we are very pleased we have been able to do that.”