Test starts with a bang

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reports from Bridgetown, Barbados

There was a bizarre beginning to the first Test here yesterday. It featured the loss of three New Zealand wickets within the first 40 minutes for only six runs, a bold counter-attack, two dubious decisions by one of the game's most respected umpires and a sensational introduction to Test cricket for the newest West Indian fast bowler.

Predictably sent in by the new West Indies captain, Courtney Walsh, New Zealand lost their first wicket when the tall Jamaican Steve Bucknor, umpire in two World Cup finals and not known for errors, ruled Craig Spearman caught behind off Curtly Ambrose when even the slips barely whispered unconvincing appeals.

At the opposite end Walsh accounted for the two left-handers Roger Twose, taken at third slip, and Stephen Fleming, held around the corner, in successive overs.

Nathan Astle and Adam Parore then mounted a courageous recovery. Astle provided the aggression, Parore the common sense as they put on 81 for the fourth wicket.

They had to deal with some fast but wayward bowling from Patterson Thompson, the big Barbadian making his debut before an excitable crowd of his countrymen.

Clearly overcome by nerves, he could scarcely place his front foot behind the crease and conceded six no balls in his first two overs that yielded 25. He was taken out of the attack, to be recalled later, immediately striking twice in his first over.

He produced his best delivery to have Astle caught by the keeper for 54 which included 10 fours from 52 balls and then accounted for the left- handed Chris Harris to what television replays, and Harris himself, indicated was another misjudgement on Bucknor's part. The lifter that Brian Lara took over his head at first slip was shown to have been deflected from forearm guard, another misfortune for the unfortunate Kiwis.

The success simply made Thompson's adrenalin pump even faster and he continued to concede no ball after no ball, 17 in all in his first eight overs. He is fast, no doubt about that, but also wild.

Without Nottinghamshire's all-rounder Chris Cairns, who flies back to England today for treatment on the side strain that has ruled him out of the two Tests, New Zealand found themselves short of quality batting. But Parore, now concentrating on his batting after leaving the keeping to the new captain, Lee Germon, played with resolution and ideal technique. As New Zealand moved to 137 for five 40 minutes after lunch he was holding the innings together with 47.

n Gary Kirsten lead South Africa to victory in the Sharjah Cup final against India by 38 runs yesterday. Kirsten's unbeaten 115 took his side 287 for 5 in their 50 overs.

The opener put on 95 from 91 balls for the third wicket with Pat Symcox, whose 61 off just 49 balls, included five fours and two sixes.

Brian McMillan hit three sixes off consecutive balls from Venkatapathy Raju to end the innings with a flourish.

Vikram Rathore and Sachin Tendulkar put on 59 for the first wicket but, when Rathore edged Craig Matthews to Dave Richardson, four run-outs blew the Indian chase to pieces.