Aus vs WI 1st Test – ‘We got to believe’

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After he led from the front and thwarted a short-handed Australia attack with a stirring century to push the first Test into a final day, Kraigg Brathwaite implored West Indies to keep believing.

Needing a record 498 runs for victory or bat through 154 overs to draw, West Indies reached stumps at 192 for 3 with Brathwaite batting through the final two sessions of day four to be unbeaten on 101.

Brathwaite’s 11th Test century has given West Indies a sniff of conjuring a remarkable result, with the uncertainty over the fitness of Australia captain Pat Cummins, who did not bowl because of quadricep soreness, adding to the drama.

“We got to believe. It was good to get through this today,” Brathwaite told reporters. “We had to fight. From the beginning, we knew it was going to be tough playing Test cricket here in Australia. Australia are going to come hard tomorrow, so it’s obviously important we start extremely well.”

Having top-scored with a dogged 64 in the first innings, Brathwaite was in unusually aggressive form, marked by sweet drives to curb Australia’s quicks, in the second. He also swept Nathan Lyon, who conjured bounce and spin in a dangerous spell late in the day, brilliantly.

On the day, Brathwaite carved out an unforgettable innings in an unforgiving destination with the tourists having not won a Test in Australia since January 1997.

“For me, it means everything,” Brathwaite said about scoring a century in Australia after narrowly missing out twice during their last tour in 2015-16. “And obviously growing as a youngster watching West Indies bat (in Australia)… Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Brian Lara… you know Australia is going to be a tough place to bat.

“This obviously is up there (among his best innings) and really meant a lot for me, to be honest. As a leader, I just want to lead from the front.”

“[It] was a brain fade, because the ball wasn’t dead, so I don’t know where I was going. [I] was excited but thankfully it didn’t cost my wicket”

Kraigg Brathwaite, on dropping his bat while celebrating his century and almost getting run-out

Underlining his excitement at reaching his century, Brathwaite dropped his bat mid-pitch while celebrating. An alert Australia attempted a run-out before Brathwaite made it back to his crease, when he picked up his bat and raised his arms in triumph.

“[It] was a brain fade, because the ball wasn’t dead, so I don’t know where I was going,” Brathwaite laughed. “[I] was excited but thankfully it didn’t cost my wicket.”

Brathwaite’s confidence has perhaps increased with the much-hyped Optus Stadium surface playing few tricks, though some deliveries crept low, while Lyon looms as a decisive factor on the final day.

“It’s still a good pitch… from one end a few balls crept low. It’s always important to keep a straight bat,” Brathwaite said. “Tomorrow… possibly some cracks will open up a little bit more.”

If they do avoid defeat, it could represent an era-defining performance for West Indies, who have shown improvement in the Test format this year. But an unwavering Brathwaite, much like his resolute batting, understood the massive challenge ahead against an Australia attack that might regain the services of Cummins.

“It won’t be easy tomorrow,” he said. “We have got to show fight and it starts from ball one and if we can do that then I believe we can have a good day.”

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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