File photo of New Zealand pacer Tim Southee. (AP Photo)
Wellington: Coach Mike Hesson says New Zealand's performance in the first Test against the West Indies was "close to perfect" even though the team had to settle for a draw. New Zealand hope to go one better and get their first win in 11 matches under Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum in the second Test that begins in Wellington on Wednesday.
The Basin Reserve pitch is expected to be livelier than the strip at the University Oval, which produced a high-scoring draw in the first Test, with the help of rain in the final session. That's likely to suit New Zealand's bowlers more than the West Indies' depleted attack and Hesson hopes his team will get over its recent inability to close out matches.
New Zealand should have won the first Test at Dunedin after forcing the West Indies to follow on 396 runs behind, but the hosts bowled poorly in the second innings, allowing the West Indies to make 507. Still, New Zealand should have been able to score 112 to get the win, but the team slumped to 44 for 4 before rain brought an end to the match, 33 runs from victory.
Hesson said New Zealand felt "frustrated" to be stranded so close to a Test win, but he acknowledged that his team wouldn't have had to bat again if it had bowled better. "The outcome was frustrating, but, to be fair, it was pretty close to the perfect test really," Hesson said. "It will go down as a draw but we know that we played very well.
"I think the team's starting to turn the corner in terms of our method and how we play. Sure, we'd love the wins in the column but you've got to learn to draw first and get yourself in positions to win."
New Zealand has often gotten itself into positions to win only to fail time and again to close out matches. The squad is now counting on the Basin Reserve to provide conditions that will suit its pace attack, but that has been the expectation in each of its last three Tests at the ground - against Pakistan, South Africa and England - and all of those have been drawn.
Key batsman Kane Williamson has been confirmed in New Zealand's starting lineup, batting at No. 3 after missing the first Test because of a broken thumb. Leg spinner Ish Sodhi will play again, but McCullum has yet to decide whether Doug Bracewell or Neil Wagner will take the third seamer's role and have the unenviable task of bowling into the Wellington wind.
McCullum said the Basin Reserve pitch looks set to assist the seamers.
"It certainly does have a rather green tinge to it," he said. "We saw in the first Test our bowlers are certainly capable of extracting the most value out of those wickets.
"If the coin falls the right way, then we'll get first use of it and I'm confident our bowlers will bowl that natural fuller length and hopefully we'll present a tough challenge to the West Indies batsmen."
The tourists will consider taking two spinners into the match, pairing Shane Shillingford with either Sunil Narine or Veerasammy Permaul. Captain Darren Sammy has recovered from a leg injury and will again be used as third seamer.
"We have to look at the pitch first," coach Ottis Gibson said. "We've heard some things about it, that we won't be able to tell the pitch from the outfield so that will make us think for sure about two spinners or not."