ANTIGUA - The session after lunch brought better luck for New Zealand, as they dislodged the opening pair that had tormented them since yesterday, but it didn’t alter the complexion of the game as West Indies held forth and surpassed New Zealand’s score. New Zealand’s only hope was to wait for the batsmen to make mistakes. Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell hit centuries in a double-century opening stand to help the hosts try and bat New Zealand out of the game.

Gayle added only four to his score after lunch when he tried to clear Kane Williamson over long-on but was caught well in front of the rope. Like Gayle, Powell too got to his maiden Test century with a flourish. There were fielders placed on the deep on the on side and he managed to place it between the two with a strong pull off Wagner. It was the first time in 13 years that both West Indian openers had hit centuries, the last pair being Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith in 1999.

The new ball posed questions straightaway as Doug Bracewell teased the left-handers with his inswing. There were a couple of marginal lbw shouts against Powell and Assad Fudadin, but the ball looked to be missing the leg stump. The left-handed pair looked more comfortable with the ball swinging away as they fetched boundaries through the off side. Powell looked good to carry on to a big hundred when he took on Wagner for three consecutive fours through the off side, including a scoop over mid-off. Ironically, he fell off the fourth, chasing a delivery well wide of the off stump and feathering an edge to the keeper to give a pumped up Wagner his first Test wicket.

Marlon Samuels survived a testing first delivery, deflected down the leg side, and a run-out. Samuels was sent back, but the throw was wide and cost New Zealand four overthrows. Samuels helped West Indies towards the lead with some pleasing drives off the front foot.

West Indies were able to cruise through another session thanks to the 254-run stand between Gayle and Powell. It was as if Gayle’s century was scripted. Given his stupendous limited-overs form, a Test century was there for the taking against a bowling attack low on confidence and form. Gayle started the day with a flat six over long-off off Daniel Vettori to take him to the nineties. Keen to reach his landmark with a flourish he pulled a short delivery by Chris Martin and just about cleared the rope to get from 97 to 103. Gayle punched the air and acknowledged his 14th Test century, one that will be talked about for long, given that it came after an exile of one-and-a-half years.

New Zealand relied on Neil Wagner’s reverse swing to possibly sneak in a wicket or two with the old ball. With the ball swinging in sharply towards the pads, a silly mid-on and short midwicket was placed for the checked drive. It didn’t change New Zealand’s luck as Powell managed to chip it over midwicket and keep out the fuller deliveries. On one occasion, Gayle miscued an on drive and yet managed to beat mid-on comfortably. It was that sort of morning for New Zealand.

The patient Powell couldn’t resist a slash over gully that brought up the double-century stand, the ninth in West Indies history. It was also the highest partnership for any wicket by West Indies since December 2010, when Gayle last played a Test. It only underlined Gayle’s impact in the side and why they missed him so much.

Gayle offered his second chance of the innings when the ball turned, kissed the glove and lobbed to first slip where Ross Taylor fluffed a straightforward take. New Zealand didn’t get too many chances coming their way, and they will wonder what could have been had they halted Gayle on 36 yesterday.

scoreboard

NEW ZEALAND: 1st innings

D Flynn c Powell b Narine    45

M Guptill c Deonarine b Narine    97

B McCullum c Deonarine b Roach    25

L Taylor b Narine    45

N Wagner c Sammy b Narine    4

K Williamson b Roach    19

D Brownlie c Ramdin b Rampaul    23

C van Wyk c Fudadin b Narine    11

D Vettori c Deonarine b Sammy    17

D Bracewell c Chanderpaul b Rampaul    39

C Martin not out    4

EXTRAS: (b14, lb1, w1, nb6)    22

TOTAL: (all out; 129.1 overs)    351

FOW: 1-97, 2-133, 3-223, 4-228, 5-233, 6-273, 7-281, 8-308, 9-309, 10-351

BOWLING: Rampaul 23.1-9-44-2; Roach 23-8-55-2; Sammy 26-7-76-1; Narine 43-9-132-5, Samuels 6-2-14-0; Fudadin 5-1-11-0; Deonarine 3-1-4-0

WEST INDIES 1ST INNINGS:

C Gayle c McCullum b Williamson    150

K Powell c van Wyk b Wagner     134

AB Fudadin not out     31

M Samuels not out     28

EXTRAS: (lb 8, nb 1)    9

TOTAL: (2 wickets; 100 overs)    352

FOW: 1-254, 2-304 

BOWLING: CS Martin 16-3-92-0, DAJ Bracewell 20-4-60-0, N Wagner 21-5-88-1, DL Vettori 30-8-71-0, KS Williamson 13-2-33-1

TOSS: New Zealand

UMPIRES: R Kettleborough, P Reiffel