PORT OF SPAIN - Sulieman Benn starred with the ball as the West Indies claimed three wickets to have New Zealand struggling at 129 for four in their second innings at lunch on the fourth day of the second Test at Queen's Park Oval on Thursday. Having started their innings on the third afternoon with a first innings deficit of 239 runs, the Black Caps still need another 110 runs to make the home side bat again.
Benn, the gangling Barbadian left-arm spinner, dislodged Tom Latham for 36 to a catch at silly point for the first wicket of the day. While the obdurate opening batsman could claim to be undone by awkward bounce extracted out of the bowler's footmarks, there was nothing but the brilliance of Benn's catching off his own bowling to account for the demise of Jimmy Neesham just before the interval.
Looking to counter-attack the spinner with one of his trademark powerful off-drives, the left-hander stood in disbelief as Benn flung himself to his right to come up with the sensational catch, a dismissal that was celebrated by his team-mates in a manner to suggest that that they were almost as stunned as the batsman.
In between those two wickets by the slow bowler, the persevering Kemar Roach seemed to be coming to the end of his spell but found a further lease of life when he had Kane Williamson caught behind for 52. The classy right-hander had played with admirable discipline in a 75-run second-wicket partnership with Latham and looked set to participate in another useful stand with new batsman Ross Taylor.
But Roach drew him into following a delivery wide of off-stump to offer a straightforward catch to West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin, ending his three-and-a-half-hour occupation of the crease. Taylor (28 not out) will resume in the afternoon with wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling, as regular opening batsman Hamish Rutherford has yet to make an appearance in the middle even though the time he was off the field on the third day because of a stomach upset has already elapsed.
After the home side added another 150 runs through the first half of the day to be eventually dismissed for 460, so taking a first innings lead of 239, the Black Caps negotiated 41 overs to the close for the loss of Brendon McCullum on Wednesday night. Opening batsman Tom Latham extended the pattern of resolute defiance that has brought him three consecutive half-centuries in the series to be unbeaten on 30.
Kane Williamson (38 not out) has been similarly obdurate and the pair will be seeking their third century partnership of the tour and much more going into the fourth day. West Indies' only glimmer of hope in separating the pair came just before the close when Latham edged a delivery from part-time spinner Chris Gayle that dropped just short of Sulieman Benn at slip.
New Zealand, who lead the series 1-0 after winning the first match of the three-Test series in Jamaica last week, were forced to adjust their opening combination due to a stomach ailment that kept Mark Rutherford off the field for the first half of the day.
NEW ZEALAND 1ST INNINGS: 221
WEST INDIES 1ST INNINGS:
C Gayle b Boult 1
K Brathwaite c and b Boult 129
S Benn b Southee 4
K Edwards c Watling b Sodhi 55
D Bravo c Craig b Williamson 109
S Chanderpaul lbw Sodhi 47
K Roach c Neesham b Boult 6
J Blackwood c Taylor b Sodhi 63
D Ramdin c Taylor b Neesham 32
J Taylor c Craig b Sodhi 4
S Gabriel not out 0
EXTRAS: (lb6, nb1, w3) 10
TOTAL: (all out, 137.1 overs) 460
FOW: 1-4, 2-16, 3-109, 4-291, 5-310, 6-333, 7-380, 8-456, 9-460, 10-460
BOWLING: Boult 30-6-75-3, Southee 30-9-69-1, Craig 29-4-111-0, Neesham 15-1-68-1, Sodhi 19.1-2-96-4, Williamson 14-2-35-1.
NEW ZEALAND 2ND INNINGS:
T Latham c Brathwaite b Benn 36
B McCullum lbw Taylor 3
K Williamson c Ramdin b Roach 52
R Taylor not out 28
J Neesham c & b Benn 7
BJ Watling not out 0
EXTRAS: (b1, lb1, nb1) 3
TOTAL: (67 overs, 4 wkts) 129
FOW: 1-9, 2-84, 3-108, 4-121
BOWLING: Taylor 14-5-21-1, Roach 14-6-34-1, Gabriel 5-1-12-0, Benn 26-9-41-2, Gayle 8-3-19-0
MATCH REFEREE: Chris Broad (ENG)