West Indies edge closer to squaring NZ series

Port of Spain: Despite a defiant ninth-wicket New Zealand partnership that has forced the match into the final day, the West Indies were poised for a series-levelling victory at close of play on the fourth day of the second Test at Queen`s Park Oval on Thursday.

Trailing on first innings by 239, the tourists reached stumps on 257 for eight, leading by just 18 runs with all of day five to come.

West Indies were anticipating an innings victory late on the fourth day when Tim Southee was the eighth wicket to fall with the score at 212 and more than an hour-and-a-half left in the final session.

However B.J. Watling (38 not out) and Mark Craig (29 not out) held firm for 110 minutes in adding 45 runs to ensure the home side will have to try to complete victory on Friday and so set up a series decider in Barbados next week.

Kemar Roach was the leading wicket-taker with three for 53, but the bowling honours of the day really went to Sulieman Benn.

The gangling left-arm spinner operated unchanged through the first two sessions of the day but for one over when he was off the field, taking the vital wickets of Tom Latham and Jimmy Neesham in the morning session.

Latham could do little to avoid a delivery that kicked off a length and offered a simple catch to silly-point, but the dismissal of Neesham stunned everyone, even the bowler, as he flung himself low to his right to come up with a sensational catch.

Benn ended the day with two for 62 off 49 persevering overs and should have broken the stand between Watling and Craig early as Jermaine Blackwood failed to hold on to a sharp chance at forward short-leg when Craig was just on five.

Kane Williamson, who added 75 for the second wicket in a partnership that had started the previous evening, has been New Zealand`s top-scorer so far, getting to 52 before being caught at the wicket off Roach.

He also accounted for Ish Sodhi and Southee in the final session.

Having lost three wickets in the morning, the Black Caps would have been looking to Ross Taylor to take them out of trouble.

But the prolific strokeplayer failed to live up to his impressive record against the West Indies, falling for 36 in mid-afternoon when a loose drive off pacer Shannon Gabriel offered a catch to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin which the home captain completed with great jubilation.

Regular opener Hamish Rutherford, who came in at the fall of the fifth wicket after being off the field for most of the fourth day with a stomach upset, lasted for an hour before Jerome Taylor trapped him LBW offering no shot.

New Zealand`s trademark doggedness seemed to have disappeared and the West Indies were already sensing victory with Roach`s two wickets in the last session, only for the belated rearguard action by Watling and Craig leaving them more than a little frustrated.

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