Thanks largely to a double century by Kyle Mayers, the West Indies second string came from behind to register a stunning three-wicket win over hosts Bangladesh in the First Test at Chattogram on Sunday.
It was hardly the result many had expected at the end of Day Four yesterday when the tourists were looking at a steep 395 mountain to climb. And it was quite the reverse of the mauling many had predicted when a dozen of the first-call players withdrew from the tour before it began last month.
Statistically at least, Kraigg Brathwaite’s side had things going for them. Of the contests between the two, the WI have won 10. And since the start of the pandemic, no team whose captain had won the toss and decided to bat has yet ended up on the winning side in 10 completed Tests.
Thanks largely to Mayers (210 not out, 310 balls) and Nkrumah Bonner (86, 245b), that number is now 11.
Mayers was simply magnificent. He became one of only six batsmen to score a double-century on debut. And he is now the only member of a truly exclusive club; no other debut double century-maker has ever got to the magic milestone in the fourth innings of a Test.
In the process, he also earned WI another proud record to add to the 2003 highest fourth innings chase; no team has ever before chased so high a fourth innings target in Asia.
Mayers had counted no fewer than seven boundaries in his first innings 40. And had he reviewed the LBW decision that sent him on his way, he would have stayed around to continue to beat bad bowling. Which, given the ease with which he consistently dealt ruthlessly with anything loose, should have led home skipper Mominul Haque to lose a little sleep before the start of Day Five.
From a shaky 58 for three when Moseley departed, Mayers, the 28–year-old hard-hitting Barbadian left-hander, and Bonner, his 32-year-old right-handed partner from Jamaica, steered the WI to the relative safety of 110 for three overnight. But the mountain was still steep.
The pair and the team got to the summit in completely unexpected fashion.
Not out on 37, Mayers had already added another seven fours to his credit overnight. And he eventually pummelled a total of 20 fours and eight sixes in his match-winning second innings.
Together with Bonner, he hauled WI back into the game in the first session, refusing to be dismissed but taking advantage of virtually every opportunity to move the score along briskly. And, it has to be said, benefitting from a few near-misses and a non-review that would have sent him packing.
Still together at lunch, the pair had come within a couple runs of 200, Mayers within nine of a well-deserved century and Bonner, on 43, playing the anchor role.
The roles never changed throughout the second session, Bonner, 79, steadily accumulated runs while his partner slowed down rather than accelerated to be just 117 at tea. But despite conditions that were helpful to the virtually all-spin Bangladeshi attack, the pair reached 266. That meant just over 130 would be needed in the two-hour final session with a minimum of 33 overs still to be bowled.
Bonner eventually perished after tea, playing across a delivery from Taijul Islam to end a 226-run fourth-wicket association with Mayers. Blackwood then contributed a six before departing for just nine.
Joined by Joshua Da Silva, Mayers soon began to open the throttle and added six mainly towering sixes in the final session in a 22-over 100-run partnership with the T&T wicketkeeper.
He moved from 150 to 200 off 42 balls and stayed around to take a risky short single to push his team over the line.
When WI had set out in pursuit of their towering nearly 400-run target, the in-form skipper Brathwaite, who has a proud record against this opposition, was expected to lead from the front. He had done so in the first innings, better than adequately dealing with all the Bangladeshi attack had thrown at him. An embarrassing error of judgement in the 41st over ended that effort,
After that only Jermaine Blackwood (68) and Joshua Da Silva (42) really looked to be able to cope. But once their defiant first innings 99-run sixth wicket partnership was broken, the house of cards came down, 253 for 5 becoming 259 all out a mere 22 balls later.
Then skipper Haque’s fighting Day Four century ensured that the target almost reached 400, a few short of the world record 418. For this inexperienced bunch, it looked more than a bridge too far. Discounting the skipper (59), the vice-captain (30), Roach (59) and Shannon Gabriel (48), they have less than 25 Tests in total under their belts.
That never, Brathwaite said, bothered him. In his post-match comments, he praised his ‘depleted side’, singling out the Day Five heroes and Blackwood and Da Silva.
He has, he said, believed in this team from Day One.
“We knew it was an open game,” said Brathwaite. “We trusted our plans and Bonner and Mayers showed that they can stick to the plans and make it work.”
Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-moment Mayers said: “we never gave up. We always said in the dressing-room that we need to keep fighting.”
“It’s a great feeling,” he added, “to be playing Test cricket, then to go on and score a century and then to make it a double and then go on to win this match…”
He also had a message for those who aspire to play for WI.
“A guy making his debut and making a double should inspire all youngsters to work hard and reach this level.”
But he never took aim at those who, when the composition of the squad was announced, had dismissed this side as no-hopers. They have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and shocked the homesters, giving them more than a run for their money.
So his silence was perhaps more eloquent because it said loudly to all and sundry, don’t write us off; we can compete.
Bangladesh 430 (M.H.Miraz 103, J.Warrican 4/133) & 223 for 8 dec. (M.Haque 115, J.Warrican 3/57, R.Cornwall 3/81)
West Indies 259 (K.Brathwaite 76, J.Blackwood 68, M.H.Miraz 4/58) and 395 for 7 (K.Mayers 215, N.Bonner 85, M.H.Miraz 4/113)
WI won by 3 wkts.