Led by another immense feat of endurance and concentration from skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, the West Indies earned a second honourable draw in the Second Test of the three-match Apex Series at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados today
All three protagonists played their part to ensure that the predictable outcome was achieved. Joe Root’s England used the first session to score 185 for 6 dec. and set the West Indies a merely academic target of 282 in a minimum of 65 overs, weather permitting.
With a defiant Brathwaite again leading them from the front, the home side duly ignored the notional target and crawled to 135 for 5 despite a couple of brief interventions by protagonist number three, the trade winds-borne rain.
The result sets up a decisive winner-take-all finale in Grenada next week. With only two series wins in the Caribbean in the last 54 years and the memory of an embarrassing 0-4 trouncing by Australia in the most recent Ashes series, Root’s men have everything to play for.
And they may also have at the back of their minds deflecting attention away from the controversial non-selection of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad—far and away England’s most successful pair of bowlers in the 21st Century with over 1,170 Test wickets between them.
Having defended their proud record of not losing many encounters at Kensington, the West Indies will want to go one better next week and win in Grenada for the first time. If skipper Brathwaite continues his fine form and they can find a bowler or bowlers capable of matching him with the ball next week, that may not be as fanciful as it might seem.
Brathwaite, who posted the game’s top score of 160 off 489 balls in the first innings, again defied everything that Root could throw at him to add an unbeaten 56 off 184 balls in the second innings. In the process, he grabbed from Brian Lara the record for the West Indian batsman who has faced the most balls in a single innings, adding almost 100 to the Prince of Port-of-Spain’s 582.
Former England captain David Gower praised his ‘immense powers of concentration’ but Brathwaite modestly attributed his success to his resolve to ‘stick to my plans and […] play straight and as late as possible’.
He should have shared that plan with his fellow opener, John Campbell. Given an ideal opportunity to seal his place on the starting XI next week, Campbell squandered it. In Jack Leach’s first over of the innings, he twice tried unsuccessfully to sweep him before the spinner caught the edge of his bat and saw the ball balloon off his thigh pad to Alex Lees at short-leg.
In at 14 for 1, Shamarh Brooks also failed to convince, edging debutant Saqib Mahmood into the slips. Zak Crawley muffed the first attempt and then swept the rebound into the air only to see Joe Root claim the catch.
When Nkrumah Bonner, a century-maker in Antigua, also failed again, nicking Mahmood to Root at second slip, West Indies were 39 for 3 and England were cock-a-hoop, scenting blood.
But steady as a rock like during his first innings marathon, Brathwaite found a solid partner in his vice-captain. Together, he and Jermaine Blackwood moved the score steadily along, unperturbed by the pedestrian pace of their progress or by the occasional ball from Leach and windmill off-spinner Dan Lawrence in particular that misbehaved.
Blackwood eventually became Leach’s second victim at 88 for 4, when Jonny Bairstow, one of four close catchers in almost constant attendance at that stage, caught him off the edge very close in at gully.
And when Jason Holder saw Lawrence dive low to his left to hold on to his tennis smash off Leach and end his 24-ball run-less vigil, Joshua Da Silva (30*, 5 x 4) walked to the wicket to join Man-of-the-Match Brathwaite and allay justifiable West Indian fears.
England had come out at the start of the day’s play with all guns blazing. Clearly intent on a declaration by lunch, they needed to score big and quickly.
They did, thanks largely to a quick-fire fifth-wicket partnership of 51 between Lawrence and Bairstow. In good nick, Lawrence came in ahead of Stokes and Bairstow and showed why.
After taking 101 balls to get to 50, the visitors needed only 57 more to double their score and a further 44 to get to 150. In white ball mode from the start, Lawrence produced a flurry of imperious strokes in his run-a-ball 41, none more majestic than the sweet lofted on-drive with which he welcomed Jayden Seales. It landed several rows back in the stands behind long-on.
Not to be outdone, Bairstow put a pasting on Alzarri Joseph, taking 20 off him in one over.
When Seales claimed both in quick succession before the interval, Chris Woakes and Ben Foakes came together in a fruitful 7th-wicket holding pattern to take their team to lunch and ensure that the two change-over overs would not be lost.
Earlier, Joseph snaffled Lees’ attempted slog sweep off Veerasammy Permaul on the midwicket boundary. Then Seales raced around to his left at long-leg and dove low to get rid of Crawley to set England back early.
Root, needing a rapid hand rather than another 153 like in the first innings, managed only 9 before he too offered Campbell at midwicket a simple chance off Permaul. Ben Stokes, the other first-innings century-maker, also perished early to leave the Bairstow/Lawrence partnership to flourish and open the door.
But the Brathwaite obduracy, bloody-mindedness, unflappability and his categorical refusal to budge shut it firmly in England’s face.
(SUMMARISED SECOND TEST SCORES)
England 1st Inns: 507 for 9 declared (150.5 overs) (Joe Root 153, Ben Stokes 120, Dan Lawrence 91, Chris Woakes 41; Veerasammy Permaul 3/126, Kemar Roach 2/68)
& 2nd Inns: 185 for 6 declared (39.5 overs) (Dan Lawrence 41, Zak Crawley 40, Jonny Bairstow 29; Veerasammy Permaul 2/29, Jayden Seales 2/34)
West Indies 1st Inns: 411 all out (187.5 overs) (Kraigg Brathwaite 160, Jermaine Blackwood 102, Shamarh Brooks 39; Jack Leach 3/118, Saqib Mahmood 2/58, Ben Stokes 2/65)
& 2nd Inns: 135 for 5 (65 overs) (Kraigg Brathwaite 56*, Joshua Da Silva 30*, Jermaine Blackwood 27; Jack Leach 3/36, Saqib Mahmood 2/21)
Man-of-the-Match: Kraigg Brathwaite
Result: Match drawn
Three-match series level at 0-0.