HAMILTON, Dec 3: Captains Kane Williamson and Jason Holder both wanted to win the toss and bowl on Thursday on a luminous green pitch at Seddon Park on the first day of the first Test between New Zealand and the West Indies. Holder called correctly, eagerly sent in New Zealand and Williamson finished the day unbeaten on 97 � approaching his 21st Test century with Ross Taylor 31 not out and the home team 243-2.
It may have been a small consolation to Holder that both astute and experienced captains thoroughly misread the pitch. He would have been less pleased that his bowlers mostly misused it and found themselves with their backs to the wall at stumps. The pitch was fully carpeted with grass, almost blending into the outfield, and was so soft that even at the end of a first session extended to 2 hours, 50 minutes � after the start of play was delayed by rain � the ball looked almost new. It was still possible to read the vivid gold lettering on its red surface. It would have been easy at first glance to assume the ball would fly about the batsman�s ears and seam prodigiously. Instead, it offered slow seam and only occasional deliveries that reared from a length. Effort balls did fly but not menacingly.
After the early loss of Will Young for 5 on Test debut, Williamson and Tom Latham dug in and added 154 for New Zealand�s second wicket to subdue any of the danger the pitch seemed likely to present.
�I felt like I was hitting the ball reasonably well,� Latham said. �If you can trust your positions on a pitch like this and get a bit of luck, then hopefully things go your way and I was just glad to contribute today.�
Latham had a major piece of luck when he feathered a top edge catch to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich off Holder�s bowling when he was 45 in the 32nd over. The bowler and the West Indies cordon, apart from Darren Bravo, didn�t bother to appeal.
Latham said the pitch provided some challenges but no real threat.
�I think nowadays on our wickets they tend to be a bit greener,� Latham said. �But there was probably a bit more grass on this Hamilton wicket than we�ve traditionally seen.�
Brief Scores: New Zealand 243/2 in 78 overs (Kane Williamson 97 n.o., Tom Latham 86; Kemar Roach 1/53). � AP