Brathwaite leads Windies defiance






The third day of the first test might be headlined with Tom Blundell maiden Test century, but Windies' resilience in their second innings was worthy of praise. After an abject collapse in the first innings following a strong start, Windies ensured it wasn't a repeat, offering tough resistance after New Zealand had taken a 386-run lead, declaring on 520 for 9 just before the end of the first session.Kraigg Brathwaite then showcased utmost grit to take his side to 214 for 2. He was unbeaten on 79, while Shai Hope had 21 against his name as Windies managed 107 runs in the final session to reduce the deficit to 172 when stumps were drawn on Sunday (December 3).
There was intent from the onset, provided first by Kieran Powell while Brathwaite played the more patient knock. After his departure, Brathwaite continued to play the supporting role from one end while Shimron Hetmyer took on the role of the aggressor, forcing Kane Williamson to think and rework strategies - something that he didn't have to in the first innings. The short ball was being taken on, runs were coming thick and steady, the batsmen seemed to derail the bowlers' rhythm and Windies were getting the better of the hosts.
The 20-year-old Hetmyer was impressive at the all-important No. 3 position, adding a 94 runs with Brathwaite in a stand that came at over 3.50 runs an over. Hetmyer, who was given out caught behind, made good use of the DRS to have a decision overturned as the ball went off his arm. He went on to score his maiden Test fifty - a feature of which, was the character of his innings, which was bold, yet sensible. While he did not shy to away from attacking, he saw off the good deliveries to ensure he stayed in the middle for his 89-ball 66 - an innings that comprised of eight fours and two sixes.
There were quite a few similarities between Windies' first innings and their second early on; the short-ball barrage continued from New Zealand's pacers, the Windies openers shared a half-century stand for the opening wicket, and the hosts' quicks looked menacing. What was different in the second innings, however, was that the Windies batsmen were willing to counter those with pulls and hooks, and took the bowlers on without meekly surrendering.
Openers Brathwaite and Powell came out with a positive intent, running well between the wickets, rotating the strike and punishing the ones that asked to be while adding 72 for the first wicket. Early on in the innings, Trent Boult's leg before appeal against Powell was turned down by the on-field umpire despite the bowler's pleading. Strangely, Williamson didn't opt for a review for one that looked plumb to the naked eye, reiterating New Zealand's poor record with the review system. Replays showed that it would've hit the stumps and the decision would've been reversed had they opted to use technology.
Fortune favoured Powell some more when he was let off after a half-chance was let through between Ross Taylor at first slip and Tom Latham at second. The edge fell just short of Taylor, but it should've been taken by Latham who didn't react in time. The Windies pair brought up their fifty-run stand soon after. After seven wickets in the first innings, Neil Wagner played a part, albeit indirectly, in providing the breakthrough after bumping Powell on the helmet off a bouncer. Drinks were called as the batsmen was seeking a replacement for his helmet. It turned out to be a rather lengthy break that stretched on for as many as eight minutes which left the umpires unimpressed.
Powell was having trouble with his replacement helmet, calling for help at the end of Wagner's over. Matt Henry charged in next over and bowled one on length that angled across, unlike Wagner's short balls. Unprepared, all Powell managed was a chip straight back to the bowler, who took an easy catch on his followthrough. Powell once again, got a start but failed to convert it into something substantial as he fell for 40 off 55 balls. Wagner tried different fields, taking off all slips, having just one gully and men in catching positions for the pull or hook with him bowling short. The wicket might have gone to Henry, but was part Wagner's doing. Henry then returned later on in the innings to once again break a set stand, having the young Hetmyer undone by some extra bounce that he got a leading edge to while attempting to play it down the leg side.
Earlier in the day, Blundell became the first New Zealand wicketkeeper to score a Test century on debut at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, which is literally a stone's throw away from his school. The 'keeper-batsman made history when he scampered for a two to reach his maiden Test century - becoming the fourth wicketkeeper-batsman in history to have done so, and the 11th New Zealander.
There were no nerves in the nervous 90s as Blundell drove Shannon Gabriel straight back in what was the shot of the day to move to 96. There on, it took him 11 overs to get to the landmark with Boult keeping him company and holding his end rather ably. But it didn't come without drama.
There were two umpire's calls and a dropped chance that the pair had to survive in that tenth-wicket stand that fetched New Zealand 78 runs, giving them a lead of 386 before Williamson decided to declare and give his bowlers a few overs before Lunch as they finished with 520 for 9. Boult, who should've been caught by short leg after a flick was spilled when Blundell was at the other end on 99, eventually remained unbeaten on 18, while the 'keeper, who plundered a six right after his century, remained not out on 107.
Brief scores: Windies 134 & 214/2 (Kraigg Brathwaite 79*, Shimron Hetmyer 66) trail New Zealand 520/9 decl. (Colin de Grandhomme 105, Tom Blundell 107; Kemar Roach 3-85) by 172 runs.
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