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NORTH SOUND, Antigua: Fortune favoured Chris Gayle and he marked his return to Tests with a typically flambuoyant half-century, giving West Indies a flourishing start after they mopped up New Zealand’s tail before tea on the second day in the first Test on Thursday at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground here.
Gayle, playing his first Test for West Indies more than 18 months, sped to an unbeaten 51 and Kieran Powell was not out on 21, as West Indies reached 72 without loss, replying to New Zealand’s first innings total of 351 at the break.
Gayle’s produced a spectacular volley of strokes, after Sunil Narine captured 5-132 from 43 overs, as New Zealand’s innings folded about an hour-and-a-quarter after lunch, despite a late flurry from Doug Bracewell with 39.
Left-hander Gayle galloped to 36 with strokes all around the wicket before he fenced a delivery from Bracewell that rose sharply to backward point and Daniel Flynn put him down.
This failed to deter the talismanic opener and he reached his 50 from just 39 balls with a single to long-on in the first over from left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.
Gayle got into stride immediately with four straight boundaries in the first over of the innings from Chris Martin.
He dragged the third delivery through mid-on, drove the next delivery through mid-off, drilled the penultimate delivery straight, and lifted the final delivery over extra cover.
Gayle also collected three fours in Neil Wagner’s third over, when he swatted a short delivery over mid-on, drove the fourth delivery on the up past extra cover, and slashed another short delivery – outside the off-stump – over backward point from the final delivery of the left-arm fast-medium bowler.
Powell looked as classy as he usually does and collected a pair of fours off Wagner to third man without the same conviction as Gayle – and remained unflappable at the other end.
Earlier, West Indies captain Darren Sammy had continued the demolition of the New Zealand innings after lunch, when Vettori miscued a pull at a short, rising ball and was caught at mid-wicket for 17.
Next over, Narine, playing in only his second Test, completed his five-for, when Kruger van Wyk turned a sharply spun delivery to forward short leg and was caught for 11.
West Indies appeared to have wrapped up the New Zealand innings, when umpire Paul Reiffel of Australia upheld Narine’s lbw appeal over Bracewell.
The home team players were already trekking off the field, when TV technology suggested the delivery would have missed the stumps after the Black Caps’ tail-ender reviewed the decision.
West Indies bowlers, Sammy in particular, came in for some harsh treatment from Bracewell, whose 31-ball cameo contained five fours and a pair of sixes before Shivnarine Chanderpaul held a remarkable catch running back at deep mid-on to dismiss him off Ravi Rampaul.
Rampaul ended with 2-44 from 23.1 overs and Kemar Roach finished with 2-55 from 23 overs.
Before lunch, West Indies had started to make inroads into the New Zealand batting, as the visitors reached 287 for seven at the interval.
Narine set the Black Caps back early, after they resumed from their overnight total of 232 for four, when he had night-watchman Neil Wagner caught at slip for four, sparring at a delivery that bounced sharply in the second over of the morning.
West Indies were held up, when Dean Brownlie and Kane Williamson batted resolutely for close to an hour to consolidate for the Black Caps with a stand of 40 for the sixth wicket.
Roach, returning for his second spell of the morning, separated them, when he bowled Williamson for 19 off the inside edge with a delivery that moved back and the batsman tried to force through the off-side.
Ravi Rampaul continued the slide, when Brownlie edged a perfectly-pitched delivery that bounced and moved away, and was caught behind for 23.