ESPNcricinfo – A resolute half-century from Kraigg Brathwaite was the cornerstone of West Indies progress on the second day. However, the majority of it was lost to rain. Grey clouds had circled Kensington Oval throughout the morning session and limited the day’s play to less than six overs after lunch. New Zealand might not have minded the intervention. They had begun well but lost the initiative by flitting between various lines and lengths.
The first half hour lived up to its clichéd billing with the ball buzzing past the batsmen’s ears. Chris Gayle was placed under particular discomfort as Trent Boult softened him up and Tim Southee almost had him caught at leg gully. New Zealand might have persisted with the experiment a little more, but Gayle hit himself out of trouble and three fours in three balls earned him some breathing space. He was approaching a third fifty in four innings when the temptation to loft Mark Craig became too strong and he holed out at long-on. The offspinner would have relished the wear and tear on the pitch at Kensington Oval. There was rough to exploit against both right and left-handers but he could not quite assert himself the way Sulieman Benn did on the first day.
Brathwaite was one of the reasons for keeping Craig at bay. His solidity was a known quantity in West Indies. His driving was eye-catching – a strong forward stride to underpin a strong push. He used a strong bottom hand to assist his back foot play. He struck 10 fours and none of them bore the imprint of being hit too hard. It was a mark of his composure at the crease, but he might have been a touch too lax as he drove on the up and was caught at cover.
The scoring rates in this Test have been very healthy. Kirk Edwards contributed to the continuation of that trend. His strokes were more flashy and fueled a second-wicket partnership of 74 with four fours and a six. West Indies’ top order is not often the most reliable but having gone in with five bowlers, they had extra responsibility and the response so far must be pleasing to the captain Denesh Ramdin.
New Zealand fussed over the ball for much of the morning session, trying to persuade the umpires to change it. When their efforts did bear fruit, the replacement seemed to offer the seamers a bit more bite but Boult and Southee, on whom the visitors’ attack sorely depended, were rather lacklustre and West Indies benefited to the tune of 127 runs for the loss of two wickets.
New Zealand needed to streamline their plans after lunch, especially with Edwards chugging along on 41 off 45 and the new batsman, Darren Bravo, fresh off a century in the previous Test. Brendon McCullum had employed attacking fields – his ploy of using a silly mid-on almost bore fruit, but Brathwaite’s lazy drive had fallen short. He worked the same principle against Edwards, whose strokeplay was characterised by hard hands, by having two short covers. He made the right moves and after the break his bowlers responded better. Craig went around the wicket to generate some good bounce, Neil Wagner was persistent. Contest had been imbued back into the game, but it was not allowed to unfurl as what began as a faint drizzle kept gaining strength.
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