LOSING two quick wickets in the first session was the turning point in New Zealand's bid to save the first West Indies Test, captain Ross Taylor said.
New Zealand began the fifth day needing the middle order to use as much time as possible to eke out a draw, but Kemar Roach's quick wickets - Ross Taylor in the 11th over and, two overs later, Kane Williamson for a duck - undermined those plans.
"We had a chance to realistically draw the match. But losing two wickets - myself, Williamson and (later) Dan Vettori's wickets - was key. Everyone got a start in most of the games; here we just lost our way and lost momentum," Taylor said. "Hopefully the top order can continue scoring runs, and us middle order can score some runs and help them out."
New Zealand started well in both the innings but ceded the advantage as the later batsmen failed to capitalise. In the first innings, New Zealand scored 351 after being two wickets down for 223, and in the second, they collapsed to 272 from 194/2.
Taylor also pointed out the failure of the set batsmen to convert their half-centuries into big hundreds. Martin Guptill was out for 97 in the first innings and Brendon McCullum for 84 in the second.
"This hasn't been the problem in the last couple of years, this has been a problem with New Zealand cricket for the last 10-15 years now. Players haven't gone on to score hundreds. To be competitive in Test cricket for long periods of time, you need to score hundreds and you need to be hard on yourself when you don't - 80s and 90s are good for your stats, but the team needs hundreds."
A lot of that was because of pressure from West Indies spinner Sunil Narine, who picked up a wicket every time New Zealand looked settled and poses the same sort of threat as did Chris Gayle with the bat. Narine, named man of the match, picked up eight wickets while Gayle hit 214 runs after being dropped early in the first innings once.
"They are a side that relies heavily on Narine and Gayle to do well for them," Taylor said. "Gayle batted very well and gave us an opportunity, but we didn't take it. Narine, if he is not taking wickets, doesn't go for lots of runs. I was pleased with the team in the way we played him. There were a few soft dismissals in the first innings against him but other than that we played him really well."
An unlikely batsman to put up a fight against Narine and Roach on the fifth morning was debutant Neil Wagner, who played 103 balls for his 13. However, he had a tough match with the ball, managing one wicket off 38 overs.
"We have got one more game to go, and (to) improve in a couple of areas. I don't think we are very far away," Taylor said
Roach, meanwhile, has credited the team game plan and the bowlers' resolution on a batting pitch for West Indies bowling out New Zealand for a gettable target to win the first Test on Sunday. Roach took 5/60 to help West Indies win their first Test since October last year.
"The plan today was to bowl on one side of the wicket and look to build pressure," Roach said after the match. "We believed that would lead to the wickets. They didn't score many runs in the first session (but) we took our opportunities after lunch. It was a good team plan and it worked out very well today for us."
Roach dismissed Taylor and Williamson in successive overs in the morning session, sparking New Zealand's collapse.
Seven wickets fell for 73 runs and New Zealand were eventually dismissed for 272, ending their chances of saving the first Test.