Sunday, January 21, 2018

Brathwaite, Gayle pace WI to solid reply

...but rain reigns on second day at Bridgetown


SOLID START: West Indies batsman Chris Gayle get on his toes against a short ball during the second day of the third Test against New Zealand at Kensington Oval, Barbados, yesterday. Gayle and Kraigg Brathwaite put on 79 for the first wicket. —Photo: WICB MEDIA

Mark Fraser

THE old wives’ tale that the best way to end a drought is to start a cricket match materialised 5.2 overs after lunch on the second day of the third Test yesterday.

As the skies darkened, thunder occasionally rolled and the first steady rain in almost three months persisted, what was developing into a fascinating afternoon came to an abrupt halt.

Continuing with the assertive methods that yielded 460 at 3.35 runs an over in their series-levelling victory in the second Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, Chris Gayle, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kirk Edwards galloped along at four and a half runs an over in the first session, moving from 32 without loss to 159 for two at the interval, 127 off 28 overs in the two hours.

They thumped 14 fours and a six on a lovely surface for strokeplay against strangely lacklustre quick bowling from Tim Southee and Trent Boult and off-spin from Mark Craig.

Only ten runs were added - two cut boundaries by Darren Bravo off Craig, a wide and a single to Edwards before the weather ended play for the day.

Not all the pre-lunch aggression was from Gayle.

The usually dogged Brathwaite revealed an impressive new side of his game with drives down the ground, pulls and his late dabs to third man, his favourite stroke.

Edwards, his Wanderers club teammate, immediately picked up where he left off in the second Test at Queen’s Park, dispatching Craig for four and a straight six and going to lunch (this time delivered to the players on time) 41 from 45 balls.

After a few early problems against a couple Southee bouncers, Gayle got going with three typically powerful boundaries to add to his three from overnight, moving from 18 to 42. Seeking to add a second six to his count, he mistimed his hit off Craig, sending a spiralling catch to Hamish Rutherford at straight longon.

By then, Brathwaite was into the groove. He needed half-hour and 23 balls to add to his 11 of the previous afternoon; in the next hour and 20 minutes, he moved comfortably to 68 before he was foxed by clever captaincy by Brendon McCullum, bowling by Neil Wagner and catching by Southee.

Given Brathwaite’s propensity for the drive, McCullum set seven fielders on the off-side for the left-arm quickie, two alongside each other close in at extra-cover.

Delivered from wide from round the wicket, Wagner invited another drive. Brathwaite obliged but couldn’t keep it down sufficiently. Southee, the wider of the cover men, swooped on the catch inches from the ground.

Brathwaite has spoken about Sir Vivian Richards’ influence on his more positive approach during his time at the High Performance Centre. He is by no means a Master Blaster but his batting yesterday was a revelation.

Following his 129 in his previous innings in the series, it’s a signal that, still only 21, his Test career is now off and running.

Edwards was as adventurous as he had been in his 55 off 64 balls at the Queen’s Park Oval. He went to the interval with 41 from 45 balls; a straight six off Craig and four fours were his main shots.

On resumption, Wagner, with the same tactic used against Brathwaite, tested his patience outside off-stump, conceding a single run from 14 deliveries.

An engrossing duel was in prospect. The rain spoiled it for the 2,000 or so spectators, if not for suffering farmers.