Gayle and Powell tons hurt New Zealand
Centuries from Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell were at the fore of the West Indies' surge to 442 for six - and a lead of 91 - on day three of the series opener against New Zealand in North Sound, Antigua on Friday.
Resuming on 145 without loss in reply to New Zealand's first-innings effort of 351 all out, openers Gayle and Powell had little trouble against an opposition attack that proved largely ineffective on a rather placid pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Gayle, playing his first Test in 18 months, clubbed a six over midwicket off the bowling of seamer Chris Martin to reach the 14th century of his career and third against the Black Caps in the first hour of the day. Dropped on 36 on Thursday, the left-hander received another lifeline on 142 after Ross Taylor failed to hang onto an edge in the slips.
Kieran Powell, meanwhile, moved to the first ton of his burgeoning Test campaign. Picked ahead of the more experienced Adrian Barath, the talented youngster justified his selection entirely en route to 134.
An impressive 254-run stand for the first wicket ended when Gayle's attempt to climb into a fifth six didn't carry, with Brendon McCullum hanging onto a safe catch in the deep to get rid of the former captain for 150.
Powell was out 14 overs later as debutant Neil Wagner secured his first Test wicket, luring the batsman into a flashy drive to have him caught behind for 134 amid an otherwise expensive over.
Marlon Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul perished in quick succession, the former bowled in the wake of lazy defence and the latter the victim of some steep bounce - and a first-ball duck. Fast bowler, defying the flat nature of the pitch, struck on both occasions.
That left Assad Fudadin and Narsingh Deonarine to increase a slender lead into something considerably more intimidating. The pair dug in diligently, milking the tiring bowling ranks, and occasionally looking to force the pace.
Fudadin, moving to his maiden Test half-ton in the process, and Deonarine put on 55 for the fifth wicket. It met its end, however, when the half-centurion's holed out at deep mid-off, where McCullum was again at hand to take a superb catch over his head. Departing for 55, Fudadin will be proud of his effort at three in the order - a position previously held by the injured Darren Bravo.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin would have had high hopes of repeating, or at least starting to, the heroics he managed in England recently, when he scored a fine century in Birmingham. His ambition, though, amounted to a mere three runs before fast bowler Doug Bracewell's return to the attack saw the right-hander castled.
Captain Darren Sammy survived a potential lbw review and close stumping opportunity late in the day. Deonarine, however, made no such mistake in moving to an impressive half-century.
Eager to ensure that the hard work of Gayle and Powell at the top of the knock isn't laid to waste, the skipper and his sidekick will resume on Saturday, when the West Indies will look to cap a hefty first-innings lead.