New Zealand inaugurate Test cricket's newest, and 83rd, venue here today requiring only a draw in the second Test against a tired and dispirited West Indies team to complete a rare series triumph in the Caribbean.
Their victory by 204 runs in the first Test in Barbados on Sunday, their first after four tours of the Caribbean and only the fourth by any team in 39 Tests at Kensington Oval, was so comprehensive the West Indies will be hard pressed to deny them at the end of a home season of seven Tests and 10 one-day internationals.
Conditions at the impressive National Stadium for the first Test in Grenada are expected to be typical of West Indian grounds of recent times, with an easy-paced pitch and fast outfield ideal for batting.
The stadium, which opened with a one-day international against Australia in 1999, has a capacity of 14,000. However, ticket sales have been slow, a worry for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), which sustained heavy losses in Barbados, where average crowds for the four days were under 3,000.
Over the past 29 years only England, in 1994, and Australia, in 1995, have returned home successful from the West Indies.
The New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming, who was named man of the match in Barbados for his first innings 130 and his shrewd leadership, has made the point that his team is galvanised by history and past battles in the Caribbean.
"A lot of good teams have come here and been beaten soundly by the West Indies," he said. "A lot of New Zealand teams have been battered and bruised here before. That's our motivation."
The West Indies have been weakened by a back injury that has eliminated their leading fast bowler, Merv Dillon, from the match, leaving an attack with no main bowler who has more than 12 Tests to his name.
In a significant change from their previous tours, the real pace is on New Zealand's side. Shane Bond consistently topped 90 miles an hour – and occasionally touched 93 – in getting his eight wickets in the first Test and Ian Butler is not far behind.
West Indies (from): C L Hooper (capt), C H Gayle, W W Hinds, R R Sarwan, B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, R D Jacobs, M V Nagamootoo, P T Collins, D B Powell, A Sanford, C E Cuffy, R O Hinds.
New Zealand (from): S P Fleming (capt), M H Richardson, L Vincent, M J Horne, C D McMillan, N J Astle, C J Harris, R G Hart, D L Vettori, D R Tuffey, S E Bond, I G Butler.
Umpires: R E Koertzen (South Africa), S Venkataraghavan (India).
Match referee: Wasim Raja (Pakistan)
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