KINGSTOWN – An unbeaten century from opener Kraigg Brathwaite ensured West Indies ended the rain-shortened first day of the first Test against Bangladesh at Arnos Vale, Kingstown, St Vincent, in a strong position on 264 for 3.
Brathwaite and opening partner Chris Gayle took the attack to the Bangladesh bowlers, scoring at will in a brisk first-wicket stand of 116 as the visitors’ inexperienced attack was made to toil on the opening day. Gayle would perish for a well-crafted 64 but Brathwaite notched his second Test century shortly after tea.
He and Darren Bravo kept the scoreboard ticking over with a third-wicket stand of 128 and, after Bravo perished late in the day, Brathwaite and Shivnarine Chanderpaul saw the West Indies to the close and the former will resume on 123 tomorrow.
Bangladesh elected to field after winning the toss and were left to rue their decision as Gayle and Brathwaite wasted little time in taking their bowlers to task, with eight fours scored in a 50-run partnership that took just 76 balls to achieve.
A short shower delay did nothing to dampen the hosts’ hunger for a blistering start and Gayle dispatched successive Rubel Hossain deliveries to the fence before hitting Taijul Islam for four and then six to notch his 37th Test half century.
Gayle was given a reprieve six balls later when Hossain was unable to hold on to a straightforward return catch before Brathwaite brought up the West Indies’ hundred when he clubbed an Islam full toss to the ropes in the over before lunch.
Brathwaite joined Gayle in reaching fifty by cutting a short Shuvagata Hom delivery to the ropes in the ninth over after lunch, but their opening stand was finally ended on 116 runs shortly afterwards when Gayle mistimed a sweep shot and was trapped lbw by the off-spinner. Gayle’s 105-ball knock of 64 included 10 fours and a six.
Kirk Edwards picked up where Gayle left off by pulling Hom for four with the first delivery he faced and he then hit the bowler back over his head for six as West Indies accelerated once again.
But Edwards’ (10) short stay at the crease was ended by Islam when he attempted to flick against the turn and succeeded only in edging the spinner to silly point.
Brathwaite and Bravo continued to keep the West Indies scoreboard ticking over as the Bangladesh bowlers were guilty of bowling far too many short deliveries and guided the hosts to 176 without further loss at tea.
The West Indies passed 200 shortly after the interval before Brathwaite reached his century off 219 balls, having struck eight boundaries at that point. To reach the three-figure mark, Mahmudullah offered him a full-toss which he slapped past cover for a boundary. This was reward for his patience. He was further rewarded on 113 when captain Mushfiqur Rahim dropped him off Hom when he got one to go with the around-the-wicket angle and kiss his outside edge.
Bravo clubbed three fours in quick succession and, after Brathwaite’s chance, the left-hander joined him and Gayle in passing 50 before mistiming to mid-wicket off Islam’s bowling to depart for 62.
Chanderpaul joined Brathwaite at the crease but a few minutes later play was brought to an end for the day when the rain returned.
Brathwaite will resume just six runs short of matching his highest-ever Test score – a knock of 129 in the 10-wicket second Test victory over New Zealand in June.
Some credit is due to the Bangladesh bowlers, especially the two newcomers. Islam, the left-arm spinner, and Hom, the off-spinning allrounder, became the 72nd and 73rd Test players for their country, and they had an eventful first day.
The pair bowled the majority of the overs, picking up all three wickets. They looked lost at first, but soon they discovered the rewards of bowling proactively. They stuck to trusted lines, and slowly began to bowl like they would in domestic cricket.
Rahim, though, would have wanted Hossain to bowl better with his preferred older ball. But apart from dropping Gayle and the odd good spell, his efforts never looked like they would get him a wicket. Bangladesh would have also liked Mahmudullah to bowl a lot better, but he went at over six an over and the captain could only get five overs out of his senior off-spinner.
But at the day’s close Bangladesh faced the daunting task of resuming tomorrow against two similar batsmen who cherish occupation of the crease more than anything else.