Bravo, Brathwaite tons grow lead

New Zealand

The West Indies have the second Test by the scruff of the neck as they lost only four wickets on day two at Queen's Park Oval and made it to stumps on 310 for five with a first-innings lead of 89 runs.

The West Indies have the second Test by the scruff of the neck as they lost only four wickets on day two at Queen's Park Oval and made it to stumps on 310 for five with a first-innings lead of 89 runs.

A 182-run partnership (more than the scores of India and Bangladesh combined in the ODI that ended as play in Port of Spain started) between 21-year old bajan Kraigg Brathwaite (129 off 258 balls) and local hero Darren Bravo (109 off 155) all but batted New Zealand out of the game as the pair plundered the New Zealand bowling with aggression and made the opposition toil hard in the field.

West Indies will look to bat only once and although the pitch now appears very good for batting the visitors will likely have to bat for a full two days or rely on a lot of rain to avoid conceding defeat and heading to Barbados with the series tied at one match each.

An 80-minute rain delay soon after lunch offered the Black Caps some respite in the day but that aside it was of one-way traffic. Some of that delay was made up by adding on an extra time at the end of the day and 84 overs were bowled on the day so only six overs were lost on the day. The forecast is much the same for the remaining three days of the match and while the drainage here is poor and I do not see a super-sopper available for use it is unlikely that the heavens will open enough to make New Zealand's chances of a reprieve anything better than unlikely.

West Indies started the day on 6 for 1 and managed to add only ten runs before losing nightwatchman Sulieman Benn (4) but it was plain sailing from then on. Kirk Edwards (55 off 64 balls) played a positive role in his innings with Brathwaite in an innings that included three handsome sixes as the normally patient batsman took on NZ's spinners with conviction. After he nicked off to leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, Bravo picked up where he took off.

Bravo's hundred was outdone in its magnificence only by the player's celebration of reaching the milestone in what has been an ordinary year for the batsman who has failed to live up to the hopes that he was the next Brian Lara. Upon reaching his hundred he dropped his bat and ran to the boundary jumping in jubilation and punching his fists in the air in a manner that was more exuberant than any century celebration I can remember. Bravo may lack consistency but among his 11 fours and four sixes were strokes that the great Lara would be all-too proud to have struck.

Brathwaite was the star of the day as he not only batted 43 overs but looked comfortable against all of the bowling he faced. His caught and bowled dismissal to Boult at the very end of the day smacked of the kind of mistake one makes after concentrating at the crease for an entire day and his innings justified the faith that selectors had in him as he has only averaged 20 in his first ten Tests. It was his maiden Test hundred and the first century in Port of Spain for over five years.

After Brathwaite's dismissal, WI sent in their second nightwatchman of the innings as Chiv Chanderpaul (4 not out) was joined by Kemar Roach (0*). Only Trent Boult (2-30 in 21 overs) survived the day with respectable bowling figures.

West Indies batted with positive intent today and perhaps we are learning something of the guile possessed by new skipper Denesh Ramdin. In the first 17 overs after tea Bravo and Brathwaite added 80 runs in 18 overs. In doing so the home side have given themselves a lot of time to push for the win in this match.

<b>Nick Sadleir at Queen's Park Oval</b>

Latest