Young opening batsman proves a point
Barbados and West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite has emerged from the rain-ruined second Test at Port Elizabeth with his reputation enhanced and as the team’s major gain in the series so far.
Not a ball was bowled on the final day today with West Indies set to resume on 275 for 9, still 142 runs adrift of South Africa’s first innings total. The outfield at St. George’s Park had absorbed more rain than the drainage could handle. Adrian Carter, the head groundsman, and his team did everything they could to soak up the sludge but continuous daily rain made their task an impossible one. The umpires inspected the outfield at hourly intervals between 10a.m. and 1p.m., but there was no improvement in its condition. Play was called off at 1.05p.m.
But following centuries against New Zealand and Bangladesh earlier in the year, Brathwaite finally silenced doubters against the number one Test team featuring the best combined pace attack in the world in Dale Steyn (389 wickets in 77 Tests), Morne Morkel (213 wickets in 61 Tests) and Vernon Philander (121 wickets in 28 Tests).
Brathwaite, named Man-of-the-Match at the conclusion of the match, expressed his delight at scoring a century (106) against the Proteas.
“I’m quite happy. It was hard work, but I believed in myself. They are the No. 1 team in the world so I knew it wouldn’t be easy. The hard work paid off. It means a lot, growing up watching Test cricket, it’s good to be here. A hundred against the best team is a good milestone. Batting with Marlon was good. I enjoyed every moment of it. Morkel’s spell was testing, but I knew I could fight hard,” he said.
Brathwaite added: “I just want to thank God for giving me the strength to go out there and perform. Obviously I’m quite happy with my first hundred away from home. I would like to go from strength to strength, from here. It wasn’t easy. . .I just told myself when I see the ball in the area where I know I can score, that I would back myself and go after it and that’s what I did and it came off quite well. At the end of the day, it is all about how the pitch is playing and you play to suit. I always work according to the pitch. I’ve also been working hard in terms of different shots and stuff and it’s paying off now.”
Marlon Samuels, the veteran middle-order batsman who also scored a century and shared a record 176-run partnership with Brathwaite, was also full of praise for the 22-year-old.
“They used to say he batted too slow but now he is scoring a little bit faster. . .I knew I could rely on a guy like Kraigg to be patient because he is a very patient person. As long as we [could] put up a record-breaking partnership, it would augur well for us to save the game and take it to a draw,”
The stylish Jamaican right-hander added: “He is a very strong person mentally. It’s definitely showing in his game. It’s good to have an opening batsman who is showing determination.”
Morkel revealed that the South Africans had come up with a plan on the fourth day to bowl into the ribs of Brathwaite in an effort to unsettle him and force him to fend to either short leg or leg gully. However, in calculated fashion and at other times with a bit of luck and a lot of awkwardness, Brathwaite managed to get the ball between them or past them.
“You don’t know where to put the guys. You can’t put them everywhere. We were working towards that sort of dismissal but their shot selection was quite good. They waited for a shortish length and didn’t try anything tricky,” Morkel said of Brathwaite and Samuels’ efforts.
Both captain Denesh Ramdin and coach Stuart Williams were pleased with their team’s efforts but acknowledged the West Indies still had to show improvement ahead of the third Test at Newlands.
“Brilliant hundreds from Samuels and Brathwaite, but then we faltered. We bowled the right areas, created some chances, but the fielding needs more work. Having said that, there are some positives out of the game and hopefully we can do some good things in the next Test. Kraigg stood up really well, as did Marlon. Hopefully we can continue the improvement. Shiv and myself are keen to get some runs,” Ramdin said.
Williams added: “We were disappointed in the first game and we definitely wanted to improve. We had two centurions against the No.1 bowling attack in the world after we didn’t even manage a fifty in Centurion. We were more consistent with the ball – Shannon Gabriel with his pace and Kenroy Peters, the debutant, although he is in the latter stage of his career, showed he could put his hand up.”
South African commentators Robin Jackman and Shaun Pollock, as well as West Indies fast-bowling legend and commentator, Michael Holding, were full of praise for Brathwaite and his powers of concentration shown over his more than four hours at the crease. Holding said West Indian fans should be pleased that Brathwaite was one batsman who would not be “lost to Twenty20 cricket” and predicted that the former outstanding Combermere schoolboy cricketer had about 15 or more years playing Test cricket.
South African captain Hashim Amla acknowledged the positives gained by the West Indies from Brathwaite and Samuels’ batting but believed the rain had robbed his side of going two-up in the series.
“They had one good partnership and that partnership reflected the feeling they had a good game. To get seven wickets in 35 overs was a really good effort so we had a pretty good game as well. There was not a lot of pace in the pitch, it was keeping low and it was difficult to get the ball to swing. It became difficult for the seam bowlers. Skills were tested and our bowlers came out on top,” Amla said.
“We were hoping to bowl them out early this morning, set a target and then win the game. With 55 or 60 overs, it would have been a pretty good game. . .I think it just rained too much. When that happens, there is only one real winner and we all know it’s not one of the teams,” the South African skipper said.