Composed Brathwaite leads West Indies’ recovery

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Kraigg Brathwaite was a study in concentration during his 12th Test fifty © Getty Images
Kraigg Brathwaite was a study in concentration during his 12th Test fifty © Getty Images

Pakistan rebounded from being bowled out for 281 to reduce West Indies to 38 for 3, but had to work much harder for their subsequent breakthroughs as Kraigg Brathwaite led his side back into contention with a gritty, unbeaten 95. Supported first by Roston Chase and then by Shane Dowrich, Brathwaite helped West Indies close on 244 for 6 after two hard-fought sessions.

Confronted with a probing bowling effort, a slow outfield and horrid start from his top-order team-mates, Brathwaite maintained his composure and patience throughout his 206-ball vigil. Unlike the more free-flowing batsmen at the other end, he seldom tried to force the pace, content to play the ball late whenever he could. Nine of his ten fours came behind the wicket, the sole exception being a loft over mid-on off Zulfiqar Babar.

After the three early wickets, Jermaine Blackwood briefly looked promising after lunch. However, his attacking instincts, and his seeming refusal to rein them in, soon led to his downfall. Having driven Mohammad Amir on the up for a boundary through cover, Blackwood tried to repeat the shot a few balls later. Only, this time, the delivery was slightly shorter and not quite there for the drive; Blackwood edged it to gully and departed for a run-a-ball 23.

Chase was the next to keep Brathwaite company. In a productive period leading to tea, Chase hit a number of lovely cover drives, moving to 43 off 82 by the interval. He did have a few awkward moments against spin, though, with legspinner Yasir Shah luring him into some injudicious shots against the turn.

Chase kept taking the bait and creamed Yasir for a big six over long-on to reach his fifty shortly after tea. Like Blackwood, however, he perished after one indiscretion too many. With left-armer Amir angling the ball across him from over the wicket, Chase went for an extravagant drive and only managed a thick edge to Younis Khan in the slips. That brought to an end an 83-run fifth-wicket partnership, but West Indies were still vulnerable at 151 for 5.

Next, it was Dowrich’s turn to complement Brathwaite’s marathon knock. Dowrich hit several attractive boundaries during his 90-ball 47, and was particularly strong square of the wicket on the off side. But he had two major strokes of luck early in his innings.

The first, with Dowrich on 15, came via a recurring theme – a Wahab Riaz no-ball. The bowler had enticed the batsman into chasing a full, wide delivery and edging it to Asad Shafiq at gully. But he had overstepped – for the 15th time in the series – and Dowrich lived on. A few overs later, Dowrich attempted to sweep Azhar Ali, and the ball hit the back of bat before looping to Younis at slip, who put down the chance after an elaborate juggle.

It was around this time that things seemed to be slipping away from Pakistan. Leg-side deliveries were helped on their way to the fine-leg boundary. Dowrich unfurled some cracking strokes. The odd mis-hit landed safely. Wahab received two warnings for following through in the danger area. As the partnership ticked along past 60, then 70, then 80, West Indies seemed to be regaining the upper hand.

But, against the run of play, Dowrich dragged an innocuous ball from Wahab onto his stumps, ending an 83-run stand. West Indies closed out the day 37 short of Pakistan’s first-innings total, with four wickets in hand.

That was a markedly better outcome than they might have expected after a tumultuous morning session in which five wickets fell for 64 runs. Alzarri Joseph took the last two Pakistan wickets to bowl them out for 281, just 7.5 overs into the day, before Pakistan struck back through early breakthroughs.

Amir troubled Leon Johnson in the first over by swinging the ball away from the left-hander, before Wahab dismissed him for 1 with a straight ball that trapped him in front.

Then, towards the end of the first session, Darren Bravo miscued a cross-batted swing off Babar in the air towards cover, where Amir took a screamer of a catch. Soon after, Yasir trapped Marlon Samuels plumb in front and the batsman departed, but not before wasting a review. By lunch, West Indies were sinking deep into a hole.

It was Brathwaite’s resolute knock that helped them steadily work their way out of it by the time the day was over.

Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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