BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, CMC – West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite and fellow opener Tagenarine Chanderpaul made hay. At the same time, the sun shone and cemented their new partnership with resolute hundreds against Zimbabwe in the rain-hit first Test on Sunday.
Only 38 overs were possible after play started 5-1/2 hours later than rescheduled on the second day at the Queen’s Sports Club because of wet conditions caused by adverse weather. Still, it was more than enough time for Brathwaite and Chanderpaul to reach their milestones.
For Brathwaite, undefeated on 116, it was his 12th Test hundred and second in three Tests, and for Chanderpaul, unbeaten on 101, it was his maiden hundred in only his third Test – and they carried the Windies to 221 without loss in their first innings at the close on another rain-shortened day.
The rain had stopped play about a half-hour before tea on the first day of the match, and the players never returned to the field, wiping out the entire final session. Still, Brathwaite and Chanderpaul soaked up the disruptions and put the visitors in a favorable position.
Brathwaite needed 226 balls to reach the landmark when he late cut a delivery from left-arm spinner Wellington Maskadza past slip for a deuce – but he has counted only seven boundaries in his innings that has occupied 246 balls.
Chanderpaul, son of former Guyana batting icon and West Indies captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul, brought up the mark from 286 balls when he pulled a short hop from pacer Victor Nyauchi through square leg for a single and has struck ten fours and one six from 291 balls.
“I guess he is following the game, and he messaged me (Saturday night), and he reminded me not to settle for scores of 40 or 50, but going on and trying to get big scores,” the younger Chanderpaul said when asked how his father may feel about the way he batted. “That’s what I am trying to do, so he must feel proud of me.
“This is the best feeling in the world, scoring a century in Test cricket. I was trying to get a start again and bat as long and as deep as possible… The pitch is like some in the Caribbean, and I am feeling happy, excited, overjoyed, all the feelings that you could imagine.”
The younger Chanderpaul became the first Windies opener other than Brathwaite to score a hundred since Chris Gayle struck 101 against the same opponents eight years ago at Windsor Park in Dominica, breaking a sequence of 12 unmatched by his more illustrious partner.
It was also the first time since Gayle scored 150 and fellow left-hander Kieron Powell made 134 against New Zealand nine years ago at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua that both West Indies openers have scored a century in the same Test innings.
Also, the last time an opening pair for the Caribbean side had shared a double-hundred stand.
Chanderpaul also appeared to have solved a persistent headache for the selection panel, currently led by former Barbados captain and Windies opener Desmond Haynes, about a long-term partner for Brathwaite at the top of the order.
The situation had become more acute late last year when fellow left-hander John Campbell was slapped with a lengthy ban for an anti-doping violation, which opened the door for the selectors to try Chanderpaul in the position on the Tour of Australia.
Brathwaite and Chanderpaul set a West Indies record for the highest stand of any wicket against the Zimbabweans. They joined the elite company in sharing only the 10th double-century opening frame for the Caribbean side since their first-ever Test 95 years ago.
“Kraigg is someone that values his wicket, so just kept speaking to me,” Chanderpaul said. “He told me, ‘don’t give it away,’ ‘keep batting,’ ‘fight through when the guys are bowling well and score when I can’t, so that was it,” he said.
“A Test match is five days, so that’s lots of time, and there is no need to force anything. You need to score when the opportunity presents itself, get singles, and build your innings gradually.
With only 89 overs bowled over the first two days, only a day has been lost to the adverse weather and conditions. The Windies will need to increase the scoring tempo on the third day if they consider pushing for victory.
With only 17 fours and one six struck by the West Indies opening pair, it has been mild for the Zimbabwe bowlers on the complex, easy-paced pitch. Still, the home team’s attack managed to string together 20 maidens, and Masakadza has been the most economical with 0-30 from 16 overs.
Play is set to start a half-hour earlier than regularly scheduled at 9:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. East Caribbean Time) over the remaining three days to compensate for the time lost over the first two days.