Kraigg Braithwaite, the West Indies captain, led by example with two outstanding innings to stifle England in the drawn 2nd Test in Barbados.
The Bajan superbly held the team together as opener, scoring 160 as the hosts hit 411 and unbeaten on 56 as they fended off defeat to finish on 135-5.When he had faced his 111th ball, his 600th in the match, Braithwaite had officially faced more deliveries in a single Test than any West Indian player. He went on to face 673 balls overall.
Icons Brian Lara and Sir Garfield Sobers were relegated into second and third place respectively as Brathwaite stood firm at the crease.Yet this contest was almost a repeat of last week’s 1st Test in Antigua, which was an equally flat pitch for the bowlers, with the Windies this time set a target of 282 runs from 65 overs.
Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat, scoring his fourth Test century in the Caribbean, as England frustrated the Windies to end the opening day on 244-3.England took the bowlers to pieces on the second day with skipper Root (153), Ben Stokes (120) and Dan Lawrence (91) helping guide the tourists to 507-9 declared.
In response, Brathwaite and Jamaica’s Jermaine Blackwood made their mark on the third day. The duo crafted a ton apiece as the West Indies marched to 288-4, having started on 71-1 with Jamaican left-hander John Campbell skittled out for just four runs.
Barbados’ Shamarh Brooks went for 39, with Jamaican Nkrumah Bonner falling for single figures to leave the hosts in trouble at 101-3.
But Blackwood was emphatic at the crease for just under five hours to share a 183-run fourth wicket partnership, before falling lbw to off spinner Lawrence for 102. That left Brathwaite unbeaten on a patient 109 for his 10th Test century.
When Braithwaite was cleaned bowled by left-arm spinner Jack Leach, to take the score to 385-7, England attacked the tail-end to polish off the Windies for 411.
With boundary hitting on the tight Kensington Oval expected to liven up the clash, the pace of the contest was surprisingly slow and a draw seemed on the cards as early as the first day.
With this Test match not much more exciting that the insipid draw in Antigua, and only 13 wickets taken in the first three days, things finally started to get moving when the bowlers found pace and precision.
The rain-affected fourth day saw remarkably small crowds for this historic venue, when the Windies were whittled out for 411 and England closed on 40-0.
Root shook things up from a bore draw by making an ambitious last day lunchtime declaration at 185-6, to set the hosts a tough target of 282 runs from 65 overs. But like the final day in the 1st Test, the mammoth total was beyond the West Indies who wisely did not take the bait.
England had set West Indies a winning target of 286 off 71 overs in Antigua. At the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground the hosts lost four cheap wickets, then Bonner and Bajan Jason Holder batted out the rest of the day with aplomb to avert the danger of a shock defeat.
This time the Windies finished on 135-5 after a wobbly initial reply. Campbell, Brooks and Bonner all departed cheaply to leave England chasing an unlikely success, with the score at 39-1 in the 13th over.
Campbell fell to Leach on review with the Umpire Decision Review System, which proved that he had gloved to Alex Lees at short leg. Debutant pacer Saqid Mahmood sent both Brooks and Bonner back to the pavilion, each caught at slip by Root.
Blackwood joined Brathwaite for 24 overs before he was caught by Jonny Bairstow at short gully off Leach for 27 as the Windies stuttered to 89-4 and in real trouble.
Ex-Test captain Holder failed to score before sending his 24th delivery to a leaping Lawrence on the off side off Leach, as the hosts slowly edged to 93-5 off 44.3 overs.
With the pitch as flat as the ambience, and Braithwaite on his way to breaking a West Indies Test record for the number of deliveries faced to surpass the legendary Trinidadian Lara and Bajan Sobers, it was Trinidad & Tobago’s wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva who stood his ground with an unbeaten knock of 30.
The pair patiently steered the West Indies to a draw to take the total to 135-5 from 65 overs, which was a huge disappointment for home supporters following their enthralling T20I 3-2 series success on the same ground.
With two drawn Tests, which has largely seen the batsman impress, the final Test moves to the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada with little separating these teams.
Placid wickets in Antigua and Barbados has dulled this Test series so far, especially with such lack of home vocal support.
It has not been a particularly good advert for the long format yet. But if at least one of the bowling attacks can finally ignite the series in Grenada, then cricket will be the winner whoever takes the series 1-0.
8-12 March | 1s Test (Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua)
WI drew with England
England 311 (100.3 overs) & 349-6 declared (88.2 overs)
West Indies 375 (157.3 overs) & 147-4 (70.1 overs)
16-20 March | 2nd Test WI v England (Kensington Oval, Barbados)
WI drew with England
England 507-9 (150.5 overs) & 185-6 declared (39.5 overs)
West Indies 411 (187.5 overs) & 135-5 (65 overs)
24-28 March | 3rd Test WI v England (National Cricket Stadium, Grenada)
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