The final Test of the series between New Zealand and West Indies at Barbados was closely fought, with the match going into the final day. But, in the end, New Zealand were deserved victors. More than once in the match they found themselves under trouble. However, on each occasion, they found a hero who bailed them out of trouble, be it with the bat or ball. In the end, although things got tight, New Zealand had enough breathing space to get out of tense situations. Credit for the same should go to their talented bunch of players, as well as their fighting spirit. Halfway through the game, the match could have gone either way, but the Kiwis managed to win the big moments.
While many have declared Brendon McCullum's brave declaration as the standout aspect of the game, it was New Zealand's bowling in the first innings that actually turned the tide in the visitors' favour. Remember, New Zealand had managed a score of below 300 in their first innings, and had they allowed the hosts to runaway to a 500 plus total, New Zealand would have been all but out of the game. Neil Wagner bowled exceptionally to bring New Zealand back into the game after they had to their backs to the ball. At 153 for 1, West Indies had the ascendancy, but Wagner with good support from Trent Boult and Jimmy Neesham pulled things back for their side.
Once New Zealand had reduced West Indies' lead significantly, it was up to them to make all the positive moves, and they did the same. Kane Williamson has played many good knocks in his short career, but his hundred at Barbados would be there up with the best since it was match as well as series defining. When Williamson came into bat, the match was very much evenly-balanced, but by the time he left, the Kiwis were firmly on top. Williamson's knock was one of high quality, with all the recipes of a match-winning knock. The patience he showed under pressure was proof of his growing maturity. Williamson almost single-handedly set up a challenging chase for the Windies although Jimmy Neesham's half-century was also important.
The victory would have been impossible for the Kiwis had McCullum not gone in for a bold declaration on the final day. In spite of Windies' wretched chasing record, it was a big risk since New Zealand were just over 300 ahead, and some spanking efforts by. Chris Gayle and co could have seen West Indies chase down the target. A defeat could have led to plenty of backlash at home since pundits could have questioned McCullum's tactics of giving away the game easily.
McCullum however backed his team, and Boult and Southee delivered. The fast bowling duo combined brilliantly to pick up wickets at the top of the order. Once Boult and Southee got Gayle and the other two from the top three, it was half the job done. Mark Craig continued to impress in his debut series, making a serious impact with his wicket-taking skills. In a nutshell, no praise can be too high for the New Zealand skipper, and the Kiwis deservedly won in the end.
--By A Cricket Analyst