Keep calm, Kraigg's there, say battling West Indies

Kraigg Brathwaite (Getty Images)
Kraigg Brathwaite (Getty Images)

Wellington - The West Indies put their faith in Kraigg Brathwaite to save the first Test against New Zealand as the gritty opener pulled the tourists back into the match in Wellington Sunday.

After starting their second innings with a 386-run deficit, by stumps it had been reduced to 172 as the Calypso cricketers clocked off for the day at 214 for two.

Opener Brathwaite, with a seventh century in his sights, was on 79 with Shai Hope on 21.

The Basin Reserve wicket has flattened out and lost the greenness that saw 19 wickets fall in the first two days.

The only wickets on day three were the West Indies' Keith Powell (40) and Shimron Hetmyer (66) after New Zealand resumed the day at 447 for nine and declared at 520, still with a wicket in hand, and with debutant Tom Blundell unbeaten on 107.

Hetmyer, who blazed away in a 94-run stand with Brathwaite for the second wicket, believed that as long as the opener remained at the crease the West Indies were confident of saving the Test.

"He is one of the most important batsmen in the team as of now. It feels better, it gives us drive to know that there is Kraigg there so you can be free at your end to play shots," 20-year-old Hetmyer said.

"I am very confident batting with Kraigg because he keeps telling me just be yourself and express yourself and enjoy it as much as you can.

"To be in this position, 200 plus and only two wickets down, is a very good effort on our behalf."

Matt Henry took the two wickets for an economical 33 runs while Neil Wagner, the first innings destroyer, kept the batsmen ducking and weaving but was expensive at none for 89.

While Brathwaite offered the West Indies hope, Blundell felt he was an accidental hero who began the day unbeaten on 57 and with no inclination he would end up a century-maker.

"Not at all to be honest, I was just going to go out there and let it play out, then I looked up at the scoreboard and I was 85 and then I was like I've got a chance here," he said while acknowledging the role of batting partner and number 11 batsman Trent Boult.

"I'm very thankful for the way he batted. He showed some real determination and guts to come out there and face those boys."

While the West Indies faced a monumental task to save the Test, Brathwaite has the memory of the West Indies' last tour of New Zealand to know it is not impossible.

In the first Test on the 2013 tour they were 396 in arrears when forced to follow on.

A Marlon Samuels double century took them to 507 in their second innings on the fifth day and New Zealand ran out of time chasing a target of 112 to win.

However, there were signs in the final hour that the wicket was starting to take turn which would put more focus on spinners for the remainder of the game.

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