It didn’t really bring the sluggish day to life, or create much of a stir in the stands and on the trees at the Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering (JNNCE) ground. But when Kraigg Brathwaite stepped out of his crease and muscled a Bhargav Bhatt delivery just over the long-on fence, the West Indies A dressing-room celebrated the ‘event’ with high-fives and raucous laughter. A Brathwaite six is an exceedingly rare occurrence.
The ominous clouds and the heavy drizzle perhaps had something to do with the 20-year-old’s uncharacteristic aggression. Having scored 92 in Mysore and 82 here in the first innings, Brathwaite wouldn’t have wanted the Shimoga weather to foil his hopes this time.
The unexpected six was followed by a flurry of boundaries as Brathwaite moved into the 90s before playing an exquisite late cut off Bhatt to bring up his fifth first-class ton just a few minutes before another shower brought the second unofficial Test to a close with the Barbados opener unbeaten on 104. Brathwaite’s fluent knock was a solitary highlight as the game drew to a drab finish with the visitors finishing on 223/3, the JNNCE pitch remaining as placid as ever.
Till he struck that six, Brathwaite had been his usual dogged self, tucking singles into the leg-side or opening the face of his bat gently to pick up runs behind point. He didn’t play one shot in anger and his defensive strokes against pace and spin exuded a feeling that he was batting for his dear life rather than to score runs.
The young opener, who has played nine Tests for the West Indies, has shown signs of an enhanced repertoire of strokes over the last two weeks. But despite his scores here, Brathwaite, whom his skipper Kirk Edwards later described as a ‘special player who will play 100 Test matches’, will not return to India in November with the senior team, having failed to win back his place in the Test squad.
Playing the perfect foil
Narsingh Deonarine, though, will be part of Darren Sammy’s team. The Guyanese all-rounder showed just why he’s always been touted highly back in the Caribbean. The India A bowling might not have tested him to a great extent but the elegant left-hander set about his work in forthright fashion, taking on the spinners and picking up regular boundaries. He didn’t take too long to overtake Brathwaite and looked well on his way to a century. But he fell seven short, lbw to Bhatt, giving the Baroda left-arm spinner his ninth wicket of the match. Deonarine had earlier shown his utility as an off-spinner with a miserly spell that included a wicket. But whether it will get him a place in the Test eleven remains to be seen.
Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell will be front-runners in that regard come the first Test in November. But both failed to make the most of good batting conditions for the second time running. While Edwards fell to a contentious lbw decision against Bhatt, Powell was dismissed by Zaheer Khan during an inspired spell on the fourth morning.
Having looked slightly lacklustre in the West Indians’ first innings and on Friday, Zaheer had a spring in his stride from his very first over on Saturday. More importantly, he had a set plan. He bombarded Powell with a flurry of well-directed bouncers in his second over of the day. One hit the left-hander’s body, the next sped past his defences and the third was fended off gingerly. Powell smacked the fifth delivery of the over through the covers off the back-foot. Zaheer then dished out another couple of short-pitched deliveries. By now he had Powell where he wanted him. When he slipped in a quick length delivery outside his off-stump, the leaden-footed opener could only hang his bat out and edge to the wicketkeeper.
Zaheer remained a threat to Brathwaite and Deonarine in his five-over burst but failed to make further inroads. And once he was done with his stint, the rest of the India A bowlers hardly made an impact as the West Indians made merry on the docile wicket before the weather intervened.
Brief scores: West Indies A 406 & 223/3 in 81 overs (K Brathwaite 104*, N Deonarine 93; B Bhatt 2/104) vs India A 359 all out (VA Jagadeesh 86, A Nayar 89, U Kaul 64*; M Cummins 3/58, V Permaul 2/88, N Miller 2/90, A Fudadin 2/23)