Kraigg Brathwaite batted through the day for an unbeaten 99 as the West Indies reached a respectable 287 for seven at stumps on the opening day of the second and final Test against Sri Lanka at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Monday.
Personifying patience and perseverance in a manner so typical of the right-handed opening batsman, Brathwaite did all he could to defy a bowling attack in which senior seamer Suranga Lakmal again led the line.
Put in on a pitch which offered some assistance to the seam bowlers, Brathwaite’s gritty defiance was necessary after Lakmal had claimed the early honours for the visitors with two early wickets and added the scalp of the struggling Jermaine Blackwood in the afternoon session to end the day with three for 71 from 20 overs.
With opening partner John Campbell gone along with first Test century-maker Nkrumah Bonner within the space of a few deliveries to Lakmal in the first hour, West Indies captain Brathwaite was content to let the attacking Kyle Mayers have his way in a third-wicket partnership of 71.
The left-hander riding his luck to 49 only to fall in the first over of the afternoon to Vishwa Fernando.
Dhananjaya de Silva, fellow spinner Lasith Embuldeniya and Sri Lanka’s other seamer, Dushmantha Chameera, took a wicket each to then have the West Indies languishing at 222 for seven in the final session of the day.
However Brathwaite found another resolute partner in Rahkeem Cornwall, the burly off-spinner enhancing his claims to becoming a genuine all-rounder with an unbeaten 43 in a partnership which has realised 65 runs so far for the eighth wicket.
Brathwaite’s innings has spanned six-and-a-half hours in which he faced 239 balls and struck 11 fours.
“Sri Lanka are a very disciplined bowling unit so for me it was about capitalising on the few bad balls and taking my time, letting the ball come to me,” said Brathwaite in reflecting on an effort which takes him to the verge of a first Test century for 19 matches.
“I think we have lost two wickets too many, but I am still happy with the position although the first session on the second day will be crucial.”
Fresh from career-best Test innings figures of five for 47 a week earlier at the same venue, Lakmal wasted no time in justifying the decision by his captain, Dimuth Karunaratne, to put the West Indies in.
Campbell fell to a straightforward catch by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella while Bonner, who defied the Sri Lankans for seven hours in compiling an unbeaten century to ensure a draw in the first Test, fell without scoring, playing on to the cunning fast-medium bowler.
Both teams are unchanged from the first Test where the tourists rallied from a 102-run first innings deficit to seize the initiative, only for the home side to bat through the final day to comfortably ensure the stalemate.
Sri Lanka are seeking a first-ever Test series triumph in the Caribbean.
The West Indies are keen to follow up their series success in Bangladesh in February with a home triumph ahead of a lengthy international break to accommodate the Indian Premier League.