West Indies Kieran Powell, front center, walks back to the pavilion after being trapped LBW for 28 runs by New Zealand Mark Craig during the third day of their first cricket Test match against West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Kingston, Jamaica - New Zealand's spinners solidified their team's advantage, despite a battling half-century by Chris Gayle, as the West Indies reached 97 for three in reply to the tourists' first innings total of 508 for seven declared at lunch on the third day of the first Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica on Tuesday.

An eventful morning's play saw debutant off-spinner Mark Craig snare two wickets in one over while leggie Ish Sodhi added the scalp of Darren Bravo shortly after to have the home side tottering at 61 for three following an opening stand of 60 between Gayle (59

not out) and Kieran Powell.

Having survived a testing opening spell from Tim Southee and Trent Boult, it was the advent of spin that triggered the mini collapse.

Powell, on 28, fell palpably LBW to Craig, yet again failing to carry on following a decent start.

Three balls later, new batsman Kirk Edwards stabbed indecisively at a delivery from the newcomer and Ross Taylor dived low to his right to take the catch at slip.

Bad turned to worse for the West Indies in the next over when Darren Bravo, who has struggled for runs since leaving the tour of New Zealand last November for personal reasons, chipped a catch back to Sodhi.

Like Edwards, he also failed to score and left the challenge for the two most experienced players in the Caribbean side, Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (10 not out), to survive to the interval in the first instance.

As it transpired, they offered much more than dour defiance with Chanderpaul following in Gayle's wake in taking the attack to the spinners and forcing New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum to recall Boult just before lunch.

With the sense of the occasion of his 100th Test match in the back of his mind and the predicament of the team facing him, Gayle was starting to get into stride as the break approached.

He carved a succession of boundaries off Craig and Sodhi to reach his 35th fifty in this form of the game and heightened the anticipation around Sabina Park that he would be unfurling a monumental batting effort throughout the rest of the day.

Notwithstanding that burst of aggression, New Zealand will be buoyant going into the afternoon period, knowing that separating the fourth-wicket pair will be a huge step towards taking a lead in this three-match series.