Bridgetown: Kane Wiliamson and Brendon McCullum lifted New Zealand to 123 for three, a lead of 99, at stumps on the third day of the third and final Test against West Indies at Kensington Oval on Saturday.
Early strikes by the West Indies bowlers put the tourists under pressure in their second innings but an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 55 between Wiliamson and McCullum steadied the ship.
Both batsmen had their moments of good fortune but Williamson`s unbeaten 58 and the captain`s 23 not out have given their team a fighting chance going into the fourth day on Sunday of posting a competitive target in this series decider.
Trailing by 24 runs after the West Indies were dismissed for 317 in their first innings, the Black Caps` top order wobbled against the threat posed by two home-grown fast bowlers.
Kemar Roach removed both opening batsmen to lift his career tally of Test wickets to 98. Tom Latham miscued an attempted pull to midwicket before he had scored and Hamish Rutherford`s poor run of form continued with an edge to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin when on 19.
Jason Holder, the debutant who went wicketless in the New Zealand first innings but contributed an important 38 runs in the West Indies reply, put the seal on a good day with the wicket of Ross Taylor with his first ball, the experienced middle-order batsman giving a straightforward catch to Darren Bravo at second slip.
McCullum was perilously close to being ruled lbw three balls later but survived to continue the fight in partnership with Williamson, who escaped a stumping chance off Shane Shillingford in the spinner`s first over nearing the end of the day.
He also had the chance to remove McCullum, but the sharp chance was missed at short-leg by substitute fielder Jermaine Blackwood.
Neil Wagner, whose wickets of Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the morning session were critical to limiting the Caribbean side`s progress from their overnight 169 for two, added the scalp of Sulieman Benn after lunch to finish with the best figures of four for 64.
New Zealand had aspirations of actually earning a minimal first innings lead when Trent Boult made good use of the second new ball, trapping West Indies captain Ramdin leg-before for 45 and dispensing with new batsman Roach to a catch at the wicket to reduce the hosts to 277 for seven.
However, Holder and Shillingford put on 36 for the eighth wicket.
Given the responsibility of an all-rounder in a weakened batting line-up, Holder played well for 38 until he gloved an attempted hook off Neesham to become another B.J. Watling victim behind the stumps.
His demise triggered the final slide with the last three wickets going down for just four runs, Wagner uprooting Benn`s off-stump and Neesham yorking Jerome Taylor to wrap up the innings.