Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4.33pm. Kraigg Brathwaite made that date and time his own yesterday at the Queen’s Park Oval. One delicate dab wide of short third man was all it took. Seventeen minutes later, Darren Bravo also got his century moment to remember, playing Kane Williamson just wide of short cover.
Together, Brathwaite with his first hundred in Test cricket and Bravo (109, 11 fours, four sixes) with his first on home turf, stroked away jumbies of different kinds with innings that gave their teammates and the diehards on hand real cause to celebrate.
The result was a partnership worth 182 runs for the fourth wicket – a record against New Zealand – that put their side ahead in this game. West Indies closed a day extended past 6pm because of an hour-long rain delay on 310 for five, leading by 89 runs.
Both batsmen were eventually dismissed, Brathwaite to the second new ball. But they had answered questions about their games and character at a time when their team needed a positive response. Brathwaite, with a previous best score of 68 in ten Tests, took the first opportunity on his recall to the team to turn over a new page in his career with an innings where he accentuated the positive like never before.
Bravo, with a double failure in the first Test coming on the back of a lean season following his premature departure from the tour of New Zealand for personal reasons; again took it personally yesterday.
On reaching his hundred, he sprinted all the way to the boundary in front of the Carib Beer Stand where brother Dwayne and his parents were, face bursting with emotion, his helmet and bat abandoned near the pitch. There was no question at that moment as to how focused he was. “It’s something I had at the back of my mind before the start of the series. It was more special because it was in front of your family. It was a great feeling,” he said later.
Those in the stands could have comfortably counted the number of false strokes in Bravo’s innings, the miscued lofted effort that eventually brought his downfall to Kane Williamson was the most obvious.
Brathwaite’s lack of errors was equally impressive. But moreso was his determination to keep his score moving, his Test strike rate moving from 33 to 50 druing the knock.
It was an innings with which he was “quite pleased”.
Helped by the offensive effort of Kirk Edwards who replaced nightwatchman Sulieman Benn, bowled by Tim Southee in the day’s fifth over, Brathwaite overcame his own first Test failures combining his ususal watchfulness with positive strokeplay, especially against off-spinner Mark Craig, so successful in his side’s first Test win.
Edwards also did not let him settle during his rousing partnership of 93 with Brathwaite.
The slender opener shed some of his caution, pulling and tugging through the midwicket region despite NZ skipper Brendon McCullum’s effort to stifle him in that region.
McCullum kept on the attack with close-in fielders but the batsmen kept up with their selective hitting, so at lunch, 118 runs had come in the session for the loss of Benn and then Edwards, who edged a defensive prod to wicketkeeper BJ Watling off leg-spinner’s Ish Sodhi’s third ball of the match. It was only eight minutes to lunch. But he had swung the momentum the Windies’ way.
After that the two Bs took over. Bravo sent his message immediately. The first three balls he faced produced ten runs, including consecutive, eye-catching fours through midwicket and mid-on off of Sodhi.
The certain and sweetness of his strokeplay did not diminish thereafter. But more crucially Bravo was prepared to leave many balls.
Everything he did with certainty, positive in every respect. With Bravo and Brathwaite not allowing the bowlers to dictate the pace, the day became a toil for the Black Caps.
The late wicket of Brathwaite was small consolation for the wounds inflicted by those two Bs.