New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was closing in on his 22nd Test hundred, as the home side emerged on top at stumps of the opening day of the first Test against West Indies.

West Indies captain Jason Holder believes opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite could be on the verge of rediscovering his best form, ahead of the start of the series against New Zealand.

The 28-year-old had shown great promise alongside Shai Hope at the top of the order, scoring 134 and 95 when the West Indies successfully chased down 322 for a memorable win at Headingley in 2017.

Brathwaite then suffered a dip in form, averaging 25.33 in his last 20 Tests ahead of the England series this year.  His struggles included poor showings against India and Afghanistan.  The player did show a flicker of returning to form during the team’s last Test tour against England where he scored two half-centuries.  Brathwaite reached 65 in the first and got 75 in the second but, however, also had other innings scores of 4, 12, 1, and 19 to average 21.

The opener though, looked good in the team’s warm-up matches against New Zealand A, where he scored 246 in the second warm-up match.  The performance has encouraged the West Indies captain.

“It’s good to see our opening batsmen, including Kraigg, getting some scores.  I thought he shaped up really well in England, he good a few half-centuries, got a few starts and he’s starting to look like the Kraigg Brathwaite of old,” Holder told CWI media.

“He’s obviously been a banker for us over the years, he’s had a lean patch over the last couple of years but to see him coming back into stride the way he has.  I was remarking to one of the coaches that the innings I saw in Queenstown, the double hundred, was one of the most fluent innings I have seen from him.  It reminded me of a Test match innings he played in Hobart where he got 97 in the second innings that was one of the most fluent innings I’ve ever seen from Kraigg but this one was similar,” he added.

“For me, his balance looks really good and he is striking the ball really well.  So, let’s hope he can continue in that vein and get us off to some really good starts.”  

West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes the Test team is in a ‘good place’ ahead of the start of the two-match series against New Zealand, which bowls off on Wednesday.

The team’s tour of New Zealand began with a T20 series last week but they did not experience a lot of joy after being easily swept aside 2-0 by the Kiwis in a three-match series.  Simmons, however, does not expect any follow-on negative effect for the four-day team and admits he has been encouraged by their performance in the warm-up games.  The performances with the bat in the warm-up matches will have been particularly encouraging for the team, which saw the batting line-up post scores of 366 and 571.

“The T20 and the Tests are different.  The Test team has done well in Queenstown and enjoyed a tough four-day game.  Now, they are coming into the Test series with some confidence, especially with the batsmen and we haven’t had that in a while,” Simmons told windiescricket.

“I think the Test team is in a good place, I’m disappointed with the T20 team but looking forward to the Test series…I don’t think the results of the T20 will affect how they think,” he added.

The Test series is also expected to be a tough challenge for the regional team who has not won a series in New Zealand since 1995.

 

 

Rain was the winner of the third and final T20 International of West Indies tour of New Zealand on Monday.

West Indies were outplayed by New Zealand and lost by 72 runs in the second T20 International on Sunday (Saturday night Caribbean Time) at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

Glenn Phillips was delighted to provide the crowd at Mount Maunganui with an innings to remember after he struck New Zealand's fastest-ever Twenty20 international century. 

Phillips – playing in just his 13th T20 game for his country – struck a 46-ball ton as the Black Caps amassed a huge 238-3 in a series-clinching victory over West Indies. 

It was the 23-year-old's first international hundred, Phillips hitting eight sixes and 10 fours in total before suffering a recurrence of a freak knee injury he sustained in the first game in Auckland. 

He battled on, but his innings came to an end on 108 from 51 balls when he was dismissed by Kieron Pollard. 

Still, with crowds allowed back at sporting events in New Zealand, Phillips was thrilled to have put on a show in the 72-run win. 

"That's just an incredible day. You don't get them very often, make the most of it," Phillips said. 

"My whole thing is to try and be an entertainer for the crowd and, in that moment, having the crowds back, I wanted to give them something special, the whole team wanted to give them something special. It was amazing for me personally, (that) I could be part of it."

It has been a long slog for Phillips to establish himself in the New Zealand team in the shortest format, having made his T20 debut in February 2017. 

"I had to go back, work on things, and took a step back to be able to move forward again," he added. 

"Then I had the opportunities in the Caribbean [Premier League], which slowly worked my confidence back and I was able to have a couple of good performances, being able to come out against these boys has had a massive part of play in that. 

"To be able to produce the kind of freedom in my performance was the biggest thing for me, and I was absolutely ecstatic. You don't get those very often, and I was going to enjoy it." 

Phillips and New Zealand have one more T20 contest remaining at Mount Maunganui, followed by Test matches against West Indies in Hamilton and Wellington.

Sam Cane expressed his pride in New Zealand's response to two successive Test defeats, after the All Blacks ran out 38-0 winners over Argentina.

Will Jordan's late double helped cap off a supreme display in Newcastle, as New Zealand took a huge step towards securing the Tri Nations crown.

Their campaign is now over, with two wins and two defeats, though their points difference (+64) should see them clear of Argentina or Australia, who meet next week.

Argentina made history with their first Test win over New Zealand on November 14, but the All Blacks were always in complete control on Saturday as the Pumas were kept out in a game for the first time since June 2016.

"It's extremely satisfying. There's no hiding that we had a tough few weeks, we've had a week off after the loss," said Cane, who laid down a signed All Blacks jersey in tribute to Argentinian legend Diego Maradona prior to kick-off.

"Pretty proud of the work we've put in over the last two weeks. The scoreboard doesn't reflect the first 60 minutes, I reckon.

"Will Jordan's got an uncanny ability to get the ball in open space, so it was awesome for him to come on and have such impact. The way that the Pumas defended to keep us out multiple times is a real credit to how they played and their desire.

"I'm really proud of the way we were able to stay patient, we didn't allow that to frustrate us. We stayed patient and got there in the end."

The last time the All Blacks went on a longer losing streak than two Tests was a five-match span from July to August in 1998, but Cane insists the entire squad understands the expectancy of playing for the three-time world champions.

"It's tough and there's pressure but that’s what playing for the All Blacks is all about," Cane, sporting a nasty cut above his right eye, added.

"I'm proud of how the group stuck together in camp. A happy group and we've worked really hard to get better."

Jordan's cameo from the bench was particularly eye-catching, with the 22-year-old making three clean breaks for a total of 125 metres, scoring his first two international tries and playing a key part in creating Patrick Tuipulotu's late five-pointer.

It merely added gloss to a fine team display, with New Zealand controlling 71 per cent of the ball at McDonald Jones Stadium, the All Blacks having amassed 203 metres by half-time – Argentina managing just 35 in comparison in the opening 40 minutes.

It was a performance with Argentina skipper Pablo Matera put down to the entire team, rather than any individual mistakes.

"We were not clinical. Not enough pressure on the ball. Silly mistakes in defence as well. Not a good day for us," he said.

"I don't think [the changes] were the problem. The guys who played for the first time in the tournament put in a lot of energy.

"It was the whole team, many mistakes and handling errors, so I wouldn't put the mistakes to a name, it was something from the whole team.

"We have to watch the game again, analyse, be really hard on ourselves. Prepare for a good game, a lot of work for the last game of the season. We deserve that, we work really hard."

Will Jordan came off the bench to score two sensational tries as New Zealand returned to form with a dominant 38-0 victory over Argentina to put themselves in pole position for the Tri Nations crown.

Argentina claimed their first competitive win over the All Blacks on November 14, but in their 31st Test meeting it was New Zealand who triumphed in the Newcastle heat to end a two-match losing streak.

Nicolas Sanchez produced a masterclass in the reverse outing, but Argentina's fly-half was kept under lock and key as tries either side of half-time from Dane Coles and Ardie Savea put New Zealand in control.

Ian Foster turned to his bench with just over an hour played, and the changes swiftly paid dividends, 22-year-old Jordan sprinting over for his first two international tries before making a break which led to Patrick Tuipulotu wrapping up a bonus-point win to round off the All Blacks' campaign.

It leaves New Zealand on 11 points with a points difference of 64, meaning Argentina (-28) or Australia (-36) – who face-off next week – will have to turnaround a huge deficit if either of them are to clinch the trophy.

Argentina claimed their first competitive win over the All Blacks on November 14, but in their 31st Test meeting it was New Zealand who triumphed in the Newcastle heat to end a two-match losing streak.

Nicolas Sanchez produced a masterclass in the reverse outing, but Argentina's fly-half was kept under lock and key as tries either side of half-time from Dane Coles and Ardie Savea put New Zealand in control.

Ian Foster turned to his bench with just over an hour played, and the changes swiftly paid dividends, 22-year-old Jordan sprinting over for his first two international tries before making a break which led to Patrick Tuipulotu wrapping up a bonus-point win to round off the All Blacks' campaign.

New Zealand captain Sam Cane laid down an All Blacks shirt in honour of Diego Maradona ahead of kick-off, before a typically fearsome haka set the tone for a fast start.

Jordie Barrett missed a penalty and his older brother Beauden saw a five-pointer disallowed, but New Zealand's early pressure told.

The All Blacks, who finished the first half with 203 metres gained compared to 35 for Argentina, had already won 20 rucks by the 10th minute, and a moment later Coles raced over in the corner after latching onto a looped pass from Richie Mo'unga, who added the extras.

Mo'unga knocked over a penalty as New Zealand kept the momentum going, Akira Ioane lunging in down the left only to hit the touchline before grounding the ball.

Fly-half Mo'unga should have put New Zealand 13-0 up on the stroke of half-time, yet hit the post with a penalty right in front of the sticks.

Argentina's second-half resistance lasted just 12 minutes, with Savea wriggling through after a well-worked line-out.

Mo'unga converted, though New Zealand's push for a bonus point was hitting a Pumas wall until Jordan came on.

Just hree minutes after his introduction, Jordan pounced on a fumble in midfield to race clear and slide in under the sticks.

It was the same story straight from the restart, Jordan intercepting a sloppy pass to burst down the right and seal his double.

Tyrel Lomax's yellow card for a high tackle proved the only blot in New Zealand's copybook, with the All Blacks still finding time to score a sublime team try.

Tuipulotu helped himself to five points at the culmination of a slick break as Argentina were kept scoreless for the first time since losing 27-0 to France in June 2016.

New Zealand presented a signed All Blacks jersey with Diego Maradona's name on the back before Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.

Skipper Sam Cane laid the shirt, which bore the number 10, in the middle of the pitch before the hosts' traditional haka ahead of the match in Newcastle.

It was a touching tribute following the Argentinian legend's death on Wednesday at the age of 60.

Maradona attended numerous Pumas matches and was in England to follow the team's fortunes at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

His passing marked a three-day period of mourning in his home country, where Maradona was held in the highest esteem.

Tributes have poured in from the world of sport and beyond, with many insisting Maradona – who inspired Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup – was the greatest player of all time.

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard has backed the team to rebound following a disappointing five-wicket loss to open its three-match T20I series against New Zealand on Friday.

For his part, Pollard crafted a masterful unbeaten 75 as the team posted 180 for 7, but in the rain-affected fixture the hosts chased down the total with a 179 for five response from 15.2 overs to win via the Duckworth/Lewis method.

Despite setting a reasonable total there will be plenty for the West Indies to ponder in the loss.  They got off to a fast start after racing to 58 without loss in 19 balls courtesy of Andre Fletcher’s 14-ball 34, following his dismissal the team lost five wickets in 11 balls.

In chasing down the target, Jimmy Neesham and Devon Conway led a New Zealand recovery, pulling the team back from 63 for 4 mid-way the seventh over to get a comfortable victory in the end.  They were aided by plenty of wayward bowling.  Keemo Paul and Kesrick Williams being were particularly culpable. Paul bowled five no-balls while giving up 39 runs from his three overs while Williams’ half volleys saw him being taken for 33 runs from two overs.

“We will continue to fight, hopefully, we will get over the line and set up an exciting third match for the final game,” Pollard told members of the media following the match.

“We definitely have to look at our plans and come back, in terms of the bowling aspect of it and try not to lose wickets in clusters, these are conversations that we continue to have but as cricket goes sometimes these things play a part.”

West Indies white-ball captain Kieron Pollard blames his side’s erratic bowling for their five-wicket loss to New Zealand in Auckland on Friday.

A dramatic batting collapse and poor bowling were at the root of the West Indies five-wicket loss to New Zealand in the opening encounter of their three-match T20 series in Auckland on Friday.

In a match interrupted several times by rain, the West Indies lost five wickets for one run but recovered to 180 for 7 from 16 overs thanks to some calculated hitting from their captain, Kieron Pollard.

However, New Zealand replied with 179 for five from 15.2 overs to win by Duckworth/Lewis method.

The home side won the toss and asked the visitors to bat and they obliged racing to 58 without loss in 19 balls courtesy of Andre Fletcher’s 14-ball 34 that included three fours and three sixes.

However, when he was bowled by Lockie Ferguson the second ball of the fourth over, it triggered a collapse wherein the West Indies lost five wickets in 11 balls. Four balls later, he had Shimron Hetmyer caught behind without scoring – 58 for 2.

The West Indies lost two wickets in the following over bowled by Tim Southee, who removed Brandon King for 13 and Rovman Powell without scoring as the West Indies stumbled to 58 for 4. In the very next over, Ferguson trapped Nicholas Pooran lbw for 1 and the West Indies had collapsed to 59 for 5.

Pollard came to the rescue of the Caribbean side as he and Fabian Allen hauled the West Indies to 143 in the 14th over when Ferguson had Allen caught for 30 behind and Keemo Paul out by a similar route without scoring to leave the West Indies 146 for 7.

Meanwhile, at the other end Pollard was at his destructive best, smashing 75 off just 37 balls with four fours and eight sixes to carry the Caribbean side to a competitive total.

Man of the Match Ferguson returned figures of 5 for 21 from his four overs, while Southee took 2 for 22 from 3.

However, the Pollard-led recovery was all for naught as New Zealand, led by Neesham’s unbeaten 24-ball 48 and Devon Conway’s 29-ball 41, propelled New Zealand to 179 for 5 from 15.2overs and the series lead.

Neesham and Conway dragged New Zealand back from 63 for 4 mid-way the seventh over to what turned out to be a comfortable victory. In a fifth-wicket stand of 77 that came off just 34 balls, the pair smashed the West Indies bowling to all parts before Conway fell to Pollard in the 13th over but by then the damage had been done.

Mitchell Santer picked up from there smashing three sixes as he raced to an unbeaten 31 from just 18 balls to secure victory.

New Zealand were aided by poor bowling from the West Indies, especially from Keemo Paul and Kesrick Williams being, who were most culpable. Paul bowled five no-balls while giving up 39 runs from his three overs while Williams’ half volleys saw him being taken for 33 runs from two overs. Allen gave up 32 from two overs.

Oshane Thomas 2 for 23 from three overs was the best of the West Indies bowlers while Sheldon Cottrell returned figures of 1 for 30 from his four overs.

 

 

It is all to play for in the Tri Nations series as New Zealand look to exact revenge on Argentina in the penultimate round of the tournament on Saturday.

The Pumas made history by securing their first victory over the All Blacks in Sydney a fortnight ago, Nicolas Sanchez scoring all of their points in a famous 25-15 triumph.

Mario Ledesma's side will be desperate to secure a win that would move them above New Zealand into top spot as Argentina mourns the death of Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest ever footballer who passed away on Wednesday aged 60.

New Zealand were licking their wounds last weekend when Argentina held hosts Australia to a 15-15 draw and will be expected to come out firing on all cylinders at McDonald Jones Stadium.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown in Newcastle, where the two sides start level on six points along with the Wallabies, as New Zealand play their final game.

 

FORM

New Zealand have lost their last two Tests, having gone down 24-22 to Australia in the third round. The last time the All Blacks went on a longer losing run was a five-match span from July to August in 1998.

Argentina are undefeated in three Tests, winning two and drawing one – the Pumas have not gone more than three without a loss since a four-match winning streak five years ago.

The Pumas can boast the best tackle success rate (89 per cent) in the Tri Nations and are the only side yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (11/11).

ONES TO WATCH

All Blacks captain Sam Cane has hit more attacking rucks (65) than any other player in 2020 Tri Nations, while prop  Joe Moody will win his 50th cap.

Argentina lock Guido Petti has stolen the most lineouts (3) of any player in the tournament, as many as the entire New Zealand squad combined.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster expects Argentina to have even greater emotion in the wake of Diego Maradona's death.

Arguably the best footballer of all-time, Maradona died at the age of 60 after a suspected heart attack on Wednesday.

An icon in Argentina after leading the country to the 1986 World Cup title, three days of official mourning were declared in the nation following Maradona's death.

Meanwhile, the Pumas are preparing to face New Zealand in the Tri Nations in Newcastle on Saturday.

Foster said there could be added emotion for Argentina, who beat the All Blacks for the first time in a stunning upset earlier this month.

"It's hard to say from our perspective, but I mean clearly it's a sad day for Argentina as a nation," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"I guess all we can do is we commiserate with them, he's an iconic sporting person and clearly had a lot of meaning for the people of Argentina so we just acknowledge that.

"Clearly when you're going into a game you're the next big game off the track for that country. It's going to have some emotional appeal but that's something that they will deal with and they will control.

"We've got to control our own emotions and we've got plenty of reasons and plenty of determination to play for our country as well and representing our people and doing what we need to do to fix up a performance two weeks ago is pretty high on our list."

Argentina have two games left in the Tri Nations, with the Pumas, All Blacks and Wallabies all locked on six points in the table.

The All Blacks have made three changes to their starting team to face Argentina as Joe Moody prepares for his 50th Test.

New Zealand will face the Pumas in Newcastle on Saturday in a clash between the top two in the Tri Nations table.

Moody, 32, has been named to make his 50th Test appearance, with the All Blacks opting for three changes to the side that was stunned by Argentina earlier this month.

Scott Barrett has replaced Patrick Tuipulotu, while Nepo Laulala and Akira Ioane have come in for Tyrel Lomax and Shannon Frizell respectively.

"We've had a great week building into what will be a vital Test for us," All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said.

"It's exciting in the sense that we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves after our last game, and we also have the opportunity to win the Investec Tri Nations.

"There's a real determination in the team to perform well, not only for ourselves, but also our families and friends at home and our country."

New Zealand, Argentina and Australia are all locked on six points in the Tri Nations table, with this outing being the All Blacks' last.

The Pumas' win over the All Blacks last time out was their first over New Zealand in Test rugby.

Argentina are undefeated in their past three Tests and last enjoyed a longer unbeaten run from September to October in 2015.

They have made 10 changes to the starting team that drew with the Wallabies last week, including handing a Test debut to Lucas Paulos.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Akira Ioane, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Patrick Tuipulotu, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan.

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano, Juan Cruz Mallia, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Santiago Cordero, Nicolas Sanchez, Felipe Ezcurra; Mayco Vivas, Julian Montoya, Santiago Medrano, Guido Petti, Lucas Paulos, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Facundo Isa.
Replacements: Santiago Socino, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Lucio Sordoni, Matias Alemanno, Santiago Grondona, Gonzalo Bertranou, Santiago Carreras, Lucas Mensa.

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