An opening double century stand from openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul has lifted the West Indies into the ascendancy against Zimbabwe in the first Test match in Bulawayo.
In control for large periods across day one and two, the pair’s biggest threat seemingly came from inclement weather, though rain only could delay the success of the pair who were both close to their best with the bat.
Brathwaite (126*) brought up his century first, reaching the milestone with a late cut through the slip cordon off the bowling of Wellington Masakadza. Not to be outdone, Chanderpaul brought up his maiden Test century in just his third Test match, calmly pushing Victor Nyauchi into the leg-side.
Chanderpaul’s hundred was also the first Test century scored by a West Indies opener outside of Brathwaite since 2013, breaking a streak of a dozen unmatched hundreds from his partner.
As a result of their efforts, the pair joined elite company in their achievement, compiling just the West Indies’ tenth opening wicket double-century stand since their first ever Test back in 1928.
Rather fittingly, Daren Ganga, who accompanied Chris Gayle to the West Indies’ other opening double-century stand in Zimbabwe (214 in 2001 at the same ground), was on the call when the pair passed his figure. The stand is the first double-century opening stand for the team in Test cricket since 2012, and the fifth away from home.
Perhaps making the feat more remarkable, just 17 fours and a six have been hit by the pair at stumps on day two, with Zimbabwe’s bowlers toiling to no avail across the two days.
The hosts’ five-pronged attack have 20 maidens to show for their efforts, with Masakadza’s 0/30 from 16 overs the most economical of the group (1.87).
West Indies 283 & 192 for 3 (Brathwaite 101, Mayers 0) need 306 more runs to beat Australia 598 for 4 dec & 182 for 2 dec (Labuschagne 104*)
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scored his 11th Test century to defy an Australian attack without Pat Cummins as a gutsy West Indies pushed the first Test into a fifth day.
Needing a record 498 runs for victory or – more realistically – to bat through 154 overs to draw, Brathwaite superbly batted through the final two sessions of day four to provide hope for the injury-hit tourists.
But West Indies’ chances of starving off defeat in the series opener still appear unlikely even amid the uncertainty over Cummins, who did not bowl after experiencing quadricep soreness/ He returned to the field in the final session and appeared to be moving around without obvious discomfort. An assessment tomorrow morning will determine whether Cummins can bowl on the fifth day.
Nathan Lyon relished shouldering more of the workload and claimed two wickets as he conjured menacing bounce on the Optus Stadium surface.
Leading from the front, Brathwaite was in sublime touch and scored uncharacteristically quickly to make Australia’s shorthanded attack toil. He reached a deserved ton just before stumps but will likely need to bat for the long haul on day five to thwart Australia’s bid for victory.
Brathwaite passed 5000 Test runs with a gorgeous drive down the ground to capitalise on the unavailability of Cummins, who had starred in West Indies’ first innings to claim his 200th Test wicket.
Former skipper Steve Smith took the captaincy reins during Cummins’s absence as Australia failed to make inroads against Brathwaite and debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul, who batted mostly untroubled through the entire second session. Chanderpaul scored just three runs off his first 36 balls in an effective rearguard alongside a fluent Brathwaite.
For a spark, Smith even resorted to Marnus Labuschagne who bowled medium pacers instead of his usual legspin but it didn’t do the trick.
But the return of Cummins, even though he couldn’t bowl, was surely a tonic for Australia as quick Mitchell Starc finally provided the breakthrough when Chanderpaul chopped on to end an impressive Test debut with scores of 51 and 45.
Starc made amends after dropping Chanderpaul moments earlier on the boundary with Australia’s frustration underlined by Cameron Green punching the ground having missed out on a wicket.
Australia’s mood brightened when Lyon picked up Shamarh Brooks, who as the concussion substitute had batted well against the odds in the first innings but fell cheaply second time around after edging to slip.
Australia hoped to tear through West Indies amid the ground’s increasing shadows but Jermaine Blackwood successfully reviewed a lbw decision off Josh Hazlewood. However, He never looked comfortable and fell to Lyon just before stumps.
Australia had earlier declared their second innings at lunch after Labuschagne added a ton to his first innings double century. Labuschagne rode some luck to become just the third Australia batter after Greg Chappell and Doug Walters to score a double century and century in the same Test.
Labuschagne made 308 runs for the match to continue a personal run spree at Optus Stadium after he scored 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago in the last Test played at the ground.
Labuschagne received luck on his way to his ninth Test century when he top-edged to gully via his helmet but was reprieved by a no-ball from Alzarri Joseph amid a riveting battle.
After receiving medical attention, Labuschagne continued on his merry way and passed 2000 Test runs in Australia in his 31st innings. Only Sir Don Bradman (19 in England and 26 in Australia), and Sir Garfield Sobers (29 in West Indies) have achieved the milestone in a country faster.
David Warner, however, missed a golden opportunity to end a three-year Test drought when he fell for 48, while Green didn’t bat in the match in his debut Test at home.
West Indies’ shorthanded attack was unable to limit Australia with spearhead Kemar Roach forced off after injuring his left thigh, while seamer Kyle Mayers did not bowl in the innings due to a strain in his right teres major muscle.
Adding to their woes, top-order batter Nkrumah Bonner was on day three substituted out of the match with concussion after being hit in the back of the helmet from a Green short delivery.
But the beleaguered tourists reached the final day and their hopes rested on their gritty skipper.
West Indies and Pakistan’s last Test match four years ago was a classic, and if the events of the second day at Sabina Park are anything to go by, we may be in for another one over the coming days.
On an attritional day of Test cricket that didn’t swing as much as it swayed in either direction, the teams go in at stumps in a Test that refuses to decisively tip one way or another just yet. Simple math would dictate the hosts have the edge, leading as they do by 34 runs with two wickets still to spare, but with Yasir Shah in the fourth innings a historically significant factor, all bets will be off.
Kraigg Brathwaite (97) dominated the day, surviving almost through to the end after having to settle nerves after the frenetic finish of last night. He saw off each of Pakistan’s pace bowlers, the first new ball, a dangerous middle order collapse, the introduction of Yasir and two full sessions. But soon after the most threatening partnership for West Indies, between the captain and Jason Holder (58), had been broken having added 95 runs, Brathwaite was eyeing up a personal three-figure score, too – ideally before the new ball in darkening conditions, with Mohammad Abbas warming up.
It is hard to say if that played a role in his decision to hare back for a couple down to fine leg, taking on Hasan Ali, whose direct hit caught the opener well short of his ground. He had departed three runs shy of what would have been a splendid hundred, with the wicket coming at a time when West Indies had firm control over the Test. Holder carried on after tea, playing with delightful fluidity as his side pushed past 150 and bore down on Pakistan’s first innings score ominously. Yasir, not nearly at his best, was dispatched to the boundary repeatedly, and soon enough, a backfoot punch off Hasan got Holder to his 11th half century.
Faheem Ashraf provided the all-important breakthrough, subtle seam movement drawing Holder into a push that resulted in a feather through to Mohammad Rizwan. Once Brathwaite fell, the visitors had a real opening, but wayward lines with the new ball, particularly from Shaheen Afridi, saw the lower order continue to eke out runs as Joshua Da Silva manipulated the strike intelligently. By the time the umpires began worrying about the light, West Indies already had a sizeable lead they will be keen to build on tomorrow.
In overcast conditions in the morning, Abbas had picked up exactly where he left off the previous day and was the pick of the bowlers, peppering the corridor of uncertainty between a good and full length. Roston Chase and Brathwaite had to be especially sure of their footwork, with the seam movement Abbas was generating an additional challenge.
Afridi let his high standards dip somewhat, beginning with two leg-side deliveries that trickled away for four leg-byes each. It settled West Indies’ nerves, and once Chase drove Abbas straight down the ground, the runs off the bat became more frequent. Before long, they had brought up a half-century stand.
But just as West Indies looked poised to take control, Pakistan struck. Hasan, who had been testing the pair in his first three overs, especially when they got on the front foot, coaxed an expansive front-foot drive from Chase that wasn’t really on. It produced a tickle through to Rizwan, with an anguished look from the batter revealing quite how ordinary the shot was.
The second session was a dogged, scrappy affair that – one sensational over from Afridi aside – West Indies negotiated with relative conviction. The problem for them, though, was that the session would be defined by four balls from Afridi more than anything any batter could manage.
Just after West Indies brought up the 100, Pakistan broke through with the wicket they had threatened before lunch. Jermaine Blackwood’s punchy counter-attacking knock might have been evocative of Rizwan’s cameo on the first day but it wasn’t nearly as assured, with all four of his boundaries coming off shots he wasn’t in control of. Afridi landed one in the slot for him to go after, but with the ball wobbling in the air, Blackwood only managed to toe-end it to Abbas at long-on. The very next ball, Kyle Mayers was struck full on the pad, and found himself departing for a golden duck.
It might have gotten worse for West Indies. Two balls later, the irrepressible Afridi had Holder trapped in front, with the umpire raising the finger. The allrounder would survive by the barest of margins, with the review showing the ball pitching just outside leg stump.
Holder understood the magnitude of the moment, and dug in. He did not score until a straight drive off his 12th delivery, and didn’t score again for 22 more balls. He knew the chance would eventually come, and a wayward Yasir over towards the back-end of the session allowed him to take three boundaries off it. Brathwaite, meanwhile, might as well be batting on a different surface.
His patience was exemplary, his shot selection immaculate. When Pakistan appeared to be having one of their purple patches, he had the awareness to retreat completely into his shell and place an even greater value on his wicket, and with Holder keeping the scoring ticking over at the other end, West Indies began to take control.
The quick departure of both let Pakistan back in, though, and it feels increasingly as if it might all come down to fine margins again. Just as it did in 2017.
StumpsWest Indies 251 for 8 (Brathwaite 97, Holder 58, Abbas 3-42) lead Pakistan 217 by 34 runs