DUNEDIN, New Zealand –– A high-quality maiden Test double hundred from Darren Bravo led consistent batting down the order and ensured West Indies made New Zealand bat a second time in the first Test at the University Oval last night.
Bravo was undefeated on a career-best 210 and formed significant, successive partnerships with fellow left-hander Narsingh Deonarine, compatriot Denesh Ramdin and his captain Darren Sammy, as the Windies batted all day and reached 443 for six in their second innings at the close on the fourth day for a lead of 47.
Bravo, whose previous highest score in 26 Tests was 195 against Bangladesh two years ago in Mirpur, put behind the patchy form from the preceding tour of India and fulfilled his rich talent with a near nine-and-a-haf-hour innings of supreme class.
His 404-ball knock also enhanced the visitors bid to save the match, after the New Zealanders had rolled them over for 213, in reply to a first innings total of 609 for nine declared that also featured a double hundred from Ross Taylor.
He took the sting out of the home team’s weary attack and led a fight- back made all the more impressive by neither Shivnarine Chanderpaul nor Marlon Samuels, the two most experienced batsmen in the line-up, making significant contributions.
The 24-year-old Bravo admittedly overcame a bout of nerves on 199 to reach his milestone from 390 balls, when he sliced a delivery from leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, coincidentally, past Taylor at slip for a deuce to third man.
He has so far collected 30 fours, most of them his trademark classical cover drives that had the signature of a batting legend from his native Trinidad and Tobago with whom he has had a special relationship since he was a boy growing up in Santa Cruz.
After Samuels and Chanderpaul fell cheaply in the first hour, Bravo added 122 for the fifth wicket with Deonarine, shared 56 with Ramdin and has so far put on 80 – unbroken – with Sammy.
Deonarine supported with a restrained 52, Denesh Ramdin made 26, and Sammy, defying his injured right glute, was not out on 44.
West Indies appeared on the brink of disaster, after they continued from their bedtime total of 168 for two and lost Samuels and Chanderpaul in quick succession.
Samuels made 23 before he gave a return catch to Tim Southee in the second over of the day and Chanderpaul was trapped lbw to left-arm fast-medium bowler Neil Wagner for one about four overs later, television replays confirming the dismissal after he asked for a review, leaving West Indies 185 for four.
Deonarine came to the crease and never looked ruffled, stroking the ball nicely and rotating the strike constantly to keep Bravo in the groove.
Bravo was fortunate on 82 however, when Wagner failed to hold a sharp return chance from a leading edge and duly completed his fifth Test hundred, as West Indies reached 235 for four at the interval.
Bravo, whose previous Test hundred was 127 against Bangladesh last November in Khulna, eight innings spread over five Tests, reached 100 from 200 balls, when he swept Sodhi to deep fine leg for his 15th boundary.
For just over three hours either side of lunch, Bravo and Deonarine defied the New Zealanders’ attack to add some stability to the batting.
Bravo continued merrily after the interval with a couple of rasping cover drives off left-arm fast-medium bowler Neil Wagner a joy to behold.
With each passing delivery, Deonarine blossomed and he reached his 50 from 126 balls, when he drove left-arm medium-fast bowler Corey Anderson through cover for his fourth boundary –– but he had two slices of good fortune before he reached the landmark.
He was on 39, when Tim Southee put down a low return chance from a checked drive, and in the same bowler’s next over, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, at short cover, dropped a straightforward chance from a blistering drive when he was 40.
Deonarine’s good fortune, however, ran out four overs before tea, when Anderson produced an unplayable delivery that leapt from a good length and the left-hander was caught behind from a thin edge.
Ramdin then linked up with Bravo for close to an hour and moved West Indies within sight of making the New Zealanders bat again before he misread Sodhi’s googly and was bowled between bat and pad. Sammy came to the middle and spent the last one and quarter hours with Bravo and further
frustrated the New Zealanders, taking his side out of deficit and nursing the young batting star to his milestone.
West Indies have not won a Test in New Zealand since Courtney Walsh claimed a match haul of 13 wickets and bowled them to an innings and 322-run victory inside four days 18 years ago at the Basin Reserve in Wellington –– and will be looking for a big effort from the entrenched pair and the remaining bowlers to give the home team a target to chase in a bid for victory.
New Zealand have not won a Test since late last year when McCullum took over the captaincy, having drawn five and lost four of their matches. (windiescricket)