Bravo achieves one objective and chases another for West Indies

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DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Darren Bravo said one of his objectives on the tour of New Zealand had come true following his face-saving double-hundred for West Indies in the first Test on Friday here.

The 24-year-old left-handed batsman Bravo, whose previous highest score in 26 Tests was 195 against Bangladesh two years ago in Mirpur, put behind the patchy form from the preceding tour of India and fulfilled his rich talent with a near 9½-hour innings of supreme class.

He was undefeated on a career-best 210 – his fifth Test hundred – that anchored the Windies to 443 for six in their second innings at the close on the fourth day at University Oval for a lead of 47.

His previous Test hundred was eight innings spread over five Tests ago, a workmanlike 127 against Bangladesh last November in Khulna.

“I didn’t really perform well on our preceding trip to in India,” said Bravo. “But I was spending some time, like an hour, hour-and-a-half at the crease, but I wasn’t scoring big runs.

“I remember telling [teammate] Kieran Powell that I’m going to score a double hundred in New Zealand and I just backed myself. I knew I was going to have a special innings in New Zealand.”

Bravo admitted to a bit of nerves when he moved to 199 and was kept waiting a few balls to cross the 200-run threshold.

He eventually steered leg-spinner Ish Sodhi to third man for two and became the seventh West Indies batsman to collect a double hundred against New Zealand in a Test, with an innings of 258 by Seymour Nurse 44 years ago at Lancaster Park in Christchurch the highest of them.

“While the bowler was running up and all the spectators were clapping,” he said. “There was a little bit of nerves, but I didn’t want to do anything rash. I knew a single would be right around the corner. I had batted all day, so why not wait a couple more balls.

“It was a great feeling. It’s one of my most special moments and hopefully, on Saturday, I can continue from where I left off. I set myself to bat out the day. I backed myself and the team was backing me as well. I just went out and enjoyed my game in the best possible way. To be quite honest, it’s the first time I’ve batted so long in quite some time.

“It was just a matter of believing in myself, assessing the conditions as quickly as possible in the morning and take it from there. New Zealand’s bowling line-up is a very good one and it was important I identified the bowlers of whom I decided to score. It was a great feeling, it was very challenging, but I really enjoyed it out there.”

Bravo said however, he was not finished and West Indies still had much more work to complete to make things absolutely safe and prevent the New Zealanders from taking a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve dented their confidence,” he said. “I believe they’re still on top of this game. It’s important that we come [on the final day] in the same mindset and try to bat for as long as possible.

“At the end of the day, I believe that if we come out with a draw in this Test, it’s a tremendous comeback from where we were over the first couple of days. It’s very important we stay positive and we’re looking forward to [Saturday].”

He said: “We just need go out there, try and assess the conditions as quickly as possible and play each ball on its merit. . .It’s very important that Darren Sammy and I analyse the conditions as quickly as possible then push on to give New Zealand as challenging a total as possible to chase.

“I think it’s still a decent pitch to bat on. It’s very important to give yourself some time to get in. I believe the bounce is probably a bit up and down at the moment. Their spinner is bowling very well, he’s very consistent, and the other bowlers bowled exceptionally well. It’s a challenging pitch at this point in time going into the fifth day.”

Bravo’s stroke-play has often been compared to compatriot Brian Lara’s, an inevitability considering he was a devotee of the West Indies batting legend and enjoys a close relationship with him.

“After the first day of the match, he messaged me to find out what was the score,” said Bravo. “He said it was very important that I go out there and make a name for myself, let the World get to know the true Darren Bravo. He told me to go out there and stick it out and I tried my best to bat for as long as possible.

“It’s no longer a secret, growing up as a kid Brian was the only guy I looked at when West Indies were batting. As a kid growing up, whenever Brian’s photo was in the newspaper or a magazine I would cut it out and stick it up all over my room.

“All I ever wanted was to be just like Brian. I looked up to him a lot. He has been there for me ever since and that’s something I hold very close to my heart.”

On whether this innings will open the floodgates and the runs will flow from his bat like they did Lara’s, he was philosophical: “At the end of the day, whenever you step out to bat in a Test it’s a new challenge and another opportunity to prove yourself once more.

“Every new innings you start on nought, so it’s very important that you capitalise on a good start and make it as big as possible. I wouldn’t say it is going to be much easier for me in the future, it’s just a matter of me believing in myself a little more.”

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