Dunedin: Since his Test debut in 2010, Darren Bravo was earmarked as the next big batting phenomenon from the Caribbean because of the striking resemblance of his strokeplay to Brian Lara’s. But despite sporadic brilliance, Bravo had not shown enough signs of maturing from his image of being a body double. His 40 in the first innings of the Dunedin Test was a typical Bravo innings – gorgeous, brief and inconsequential.
However, he went some way correcting all that in West Indies’ second innings with a response befitting his talent as he posted his first double-century in Test cricket with the team under immense pressure. Bravo’s unbeaten 210, the highest score by a West Indian batsman following on, not only helped them avoid an innings defeat, but has also given them a good shot at saving the Test.
West Indies trailed by 378 when Bravo walked into the middle and the way he started, it looked like one of his typical innings. Ridden with attractive shots, mostly through the off side, Bravo’s first fifty came off 64 deliveries during which he was saved by a debatable DRS decision. He was also dropped when on 82 by Neil Wagner off his own bowling and made the most of the chance to stroll to his fifth century – his first outside the subcontinent – 15 minutes before lunch with a boundary to fine leg off Ish Sodhi. There were no chances offered thereafter as Bravo got well ensconced in the crease, judicious in his judgment on what to play and what to leave, with the New Zealand bowling attack tiring out.
Once the new ball stopped swerving, he unfurled some trademark shots through cover. In one instance, he found the gap through a crowded off-side field twice in a row off Wagner with flowing cover drives, prompting the bowler to push a man to the deep. During his marathon effort, 159 of his runs had been scored in the region from third man to cover.
Never before in his career had Bravo faced more than 300 balls in an innings, but playing to the situation he batted out 404 balls, and received vital support from Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin and Darren Sammy, with whom he add 122, 56 and an unbeaten 80 respectively, as West Indies played out more than 100 overs for the first time in six innings and took a lead of 47 going into the last day.
The New Zealand bowlers, by the end of day four, had bowled 201.1 overs continuously, which may not affect their chances in this match, but is likely to leave them drained for the next Test. They tried all they could and, in conditions made for batting, created chances too, but weren’t able to convert them.
Deonarine was the beneficiary twice. First, he offered a difficult chance to Southee after driving uppishly back towards him. The bowler, falling over to the left in his follow-through, couldn’t get down to his right in time. A straightforward chance came in Southee’s next over, when Deonarine drove straight to short cover where Brendon McCullum dropped the catch. The batsman, on 40 at that stage, immediately responded with a fierce back-foot punch through cover for a boundary. He completed his fifth Test half-century in the 100th over of the innings off the 126th delivery he faced. Two overs later, though, an Anderson delivery kicked off from a length and caught the shoulder of the bat en route to the keeper, ending the batsman’s 187-minute vigil.
Ramdin continued from where Deonarine left, scoring an assured 24, before being bamboozled by a googly from Sodhi. Then Sammy, nursing a hamstring, came out and scored a brisk unbeaten 44, that included powerful drives and pulls off the seamers and two sixes off Sodhi.
West Indies had a contrasting start to the day. Tim Southee didn’t take long to make the first breakthrough. In his second over of the morning, Southee took a sharp chest-high catch off his own bowling to dismiss Marlon Samuels for 23.
Samuels hasn’t looked comfortable while batting in this Test with his feet rooted to the crease, and that tendency led to his downfall in the second innings too as he pushed the delivery back to Southee rather than leaning on it.
The second wicket arrived five overs later, in Neil Wagner’s second over, as the bowler got one to tail into Shivnarine Chanderpaul and struck him right in front. Chanderpaul reviewed the decision in hope but the replays only confirmed that the ball was crashing on to the leg stump. It was Chanderpaul’s second dismissal in the match to an incoming delivery from a left-arm seamer after he had left a similar delivery from Boult alone in the first innings. There was no joy for the bowlers thereafter.
West Indies are still not too far ahead and with only four wickets remaining, New Zealand would hope to wrap up the match early on the fifty day. However, the home side will need to avoid a repeat of what happened at the same ground earlier this year when they failed to bowl out England in 170 overs, and again, in the same series, in Auckland, when the visitors survived 143 overs.
West Indies 213 and 443 for 6 (Bravo 210*, Sammy 44*) lead New Zealand 609 for 9 dec by 47 runs