Wellington: Brendon McCullum basked in a glow of satisfaction on Friday after his side claimed their first Test win under his captaincy and soothed the jangled nerves of New Zealand cricket fans who were beginning to ask: 'When is it going to come?'
Victory by an innings and 73 runs over West Indies at the Basin Reserve inside three days answered that question. McCullum allowed himself a beaming grin when he faced the media able to finally discuss a win and the chances of recording a rare series victory in Hamilton next week.
The 32-year-old had been praised for his aggressive tactics and innovative approach, but in his 10 previous Tests recorded six draws and four losses. The most recent draw came in the first Test at University Oval in Dunedin where they needed 33 more runs to win the game on the fifth day before rain washed out the final session.
"I think we have played some really good cricket," McCullum said. "I look at the three matches we played against England at home (in March) and we twice put ourselves into winning positions and dictated against a very good team at the top of their game.
"Last week we could have won again and when you put this result on, that's four out of five Test matches where we have put ourselves in a position to win games. "I think this will certainly help and give us more confidence that you can play good cricket and get good results when you put the efforts in."
New Zealand's biggest problem in recent years has been providing their bowlers with a reasonable target to attack, or bat time to allow them to refresh before a second innings. At least against West Indies, after being inserted on two green pitches, the batting unit has provided their bowlers with some respite.
In Dunedin, with Ross Taylor compiling a career-best 217 not out they scored 609 runs, which allowed McCullum to set attacking fields and give leg-spinner Ish Sodhi some rope to bowl the occasional bad ball. In Wellington, they scored 441 with Taylor and the middle order providing 233 runs before the tail, under the guidance of wicketkeeper BJ Watling, added 145 runs.
The bowlers also stuck to their guns, bowling full of a length, allowing the ball to swing and then seam off the pitch and forcing the West Indies batters to play at deliveries. A succession of maidens and low-scoring overs put more pressure on the tourists, who did not seem content to occupy the crease as they had in their second innings in Dunedin when they scored 507 runs.
"The first Test we batted well in the second innings, this Test we barely faced 100 overs, which is not good for any international side," West Indies captain Darren Sammy said. "We all need to get better quickly in order to beat this New Zealand team at home ... (but) the last Test makes it very interesting."
Sammy's bowlers would probably spend time in the nets trying to adjust their lengths after bowling too short in the first two Tests, while he said there could be personnel changes at Seddon Park.
"Yes, every single team member will have to come into consideration," he said of the third Test in Hamilton which they must win to ensure the hosts do not secure their first series win against a major cricketing nation since 2006, when they beat West Indies 2-0 in a three Test series at home.
"So far we've got two grassy tops and we've not been able to get the wickets. Probably the Narine factor will come into play," he added of off-spinner Sunil Narine, who has taken 12 of his 15 career wickets against New Zealand.
"I've guess we've found ourselves in these situations a few times and I believe we have the mettle in the dressing room to come back and keep remaining hungry. "I believe we have what it takes to level the series."