North Sound, Antigua – Off-spinner Sunil Narine took three crucial wickets – including his special first Test wicket – to change the course of play on the opening day of the first Digicel Test match on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old, playing his first Test match at home, ended the day with 3-73 off 28 overs, which helped West Indies to restrict New Zealand to 232-4 at the close of play at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
Narine claimed his first Test wicket when he forced Daniel Flynn into error and his cut shot ballooned to backward point where Kieran Powell took the catch. Narine celebrated by raising his hands in triumph and looking heaven-ward. It was a vital breakthrough after the Windies went wicket-less in the first session.
“It’s a special moment to get your first Test wicket. It’s a moment I will remember. When I got my first wicket I looked up to say ‘thanks’ for helping me to get the first one. In the huddle someone said ‘that’s the first of many to come’ and it gave me a boost of confidence. I went back to work and I was happy to get two more wickets by the end of the day. We fought back well today, we didn’t let them get too far ahead of us,” Narine said.
After dismissing the left-handed Flynn, he later got the key wicket of captain Ross Taylor in the final session, to break a third-wicket stand of 90 with opener Martin Guptill. Narine also accounted for Guptill, who was out late in the day for 97 – caught at mid-on by Narsingh Deonarine. The other wicket to fall was Brendon McCullum, taken by Deonarine at mid-off off pacer Kemar Roach.
Narine assessed the surface and admitted it was “pretty flat”. He said it was good going to restrict the New Zealanders to under three runs per over on the opening day.
“It’s a pretty flat pitch out there. Once the batsmen settle in you have to work hard to get them. The key was to look to ‘dry up’ the runs and that led to wickets. We had to play the patience game. We had to play it smart. Late this evening, after we sent down 80 overs, we could have called for the second new ball, but the captain kept faith in me and I want to thank him for sticking with me. He could easily have gone for the new ball, so when he didn’t I knew I had a big job this evening,” Narine said.
“I learned a few things about Test cricket today. This is my second Test match, I didn’t have a great start last month in England so I sort of made up a bit today. Today, I realised I had to be patient and persistent and try to wear down batsmen in Test cricket.”
Narine added: “In the One-Dayers and T20 matches the batsmen always come after you, but in Test cricket they can sit back and wait for you to make the mistake. In my first spell I was rushing it a little bit so I decided to slow things down and be much more relaxed in my approach. That worked and I was able to get those three crucial wickets. Tomorrow we will come back and go back to work again.”