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Brathwaite waits no longer as long game earns its rewards

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WATCH - Brathwaite's sixth Test hundred (1:23)

Kraigg Brathwaite's solid 134 off 289 balls steered the West Indies to a 71-run lead on the second day at Headingley (1:23)

"I think that's when I got it, from my father. He used to say, 'Take your time man, take your time.""

There is a massive expansive cover drive, followed by a nurdle. There is an incredibly fast-handed drive, followed by a squirt. There is an enormous masculine swipe, followed by a scamper. It doesn't matter if the footage is at Kensington Oval playing underage cricket, or at a suburban stadium with traffic circling the ground, the pattern remains.

When Kraigg Brathwaite bats, the extravagant shots are played by whoever he is batting with; the singles are from him.

There are entire news reports online of his innings in which there is no footage of his innings at all; it's just not 'TV' enough for the local news coverage. You get shots of his team mates smashing it or going out; you get shots of Brathwaite bringing up milestones by snatching singles, keeping the ball on the ground or walking off the field undefeated.

And undefeated is the method he seems to live for. There are clips of him facing what looks like slow uncoordinated seamers barely touching 55mph. Yet, instead of disembowelling them in the manner of a young prodigy or future 100-Test player, he defends them as if they are a grenade bowled by the devil himself. As if one false shot would displease his father.

"If I get 100 singles, it's still a hundred".

There are things you need to know about Braithwaite. For instance, he broke into the Barbados side at 16 which, considering it is the biggest producers of both legends and ordinary West Indian players (eight players in the Edgbaston Test were Bajan) is an incredible effort. By the age of 17, he had already made 40 hundreds in his life - former England captains Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain both reckon they had managed about 15 by that age. He was the third-youngest West Indian to make a double-century - only Garry Sobers and George Headley, two of the greatest cricketers of all time, reached that landmark at a younger age. In 2013-14, he captained Barbados to victory in the regional four-day competition. He was only 21, and far younger than almost the entirety of his side.

And yet, when he was an Under-13 cricketer, he was just a normal batsman. He hit boundaries, he took chances, but at that young age he decided to stop doing all that. He made a conscious choice, even in an era when T20 cricket was already taking over, to play his style of cricket. He was a 13-year-old schoolboy who idolised Shivnarine Chanderpaul (he's even worn the Shiv anti-glare strips), which is perhaps the least cool of modern cricket crushes. But, while all those other players were playing their big shots, Brathwaite's nudges got him a Test cap at 18.

At 24, he has now Test hundreds in places as diverse as England, South Africa and the UAE. He averages more in away Tests than at home. The bowlers against whom he has made hundreds include James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn.

He might only average 36, but he's impressive, no matter how you look at him.

"I just tried to keep it as simple as possible; I know my limitations."

In 13.69% of Brathwaite's Test innings, he makes a duck. The average for an opener over the last ten years is 7.28%. And he has also been dismissed for five or fewer in over a quarter of his innings, which is also well above the average.

But once he gets in, well, he digs in deeper than an Alabama tick. Against Pakistan in the UAE, he was the first opener in Test history to be not out in both innings of a Test, meaning he was on the field for the entire game. He made 142 not out off 318 balls in the first innings, and 60 not out in the second, but he didn't hit the winning runs, he's not that kind of guy. He's the guy at the other end, leaning on his bat - often a bat that looks battered and near death, or passed down from an uncle - looking unbothered.

During the disastrous second innings at Edgbaston, Brathwaite was West Indies' top-scorer. He made just 40, but while body parts of West Indies cricketers were piling down on him in the trenches, he just removed the blood from his eyes and batted on.

"We just said, we have to fight."

When Shai Hope came into bat with Brathwaite, West Indies had lost 23 wickets for 340 runs so far in the series. And the ball was moving - it moved last night, it moved just as much today, and it kept doing it. The ball went past the bat over and over again; it could have played on a young man's mind, it could have made him change his game, to try and force the pace. But Brathwaite's mind doesn't work like that.

By the time the morning Shai Hope came out, Brathwaite had overcome a tricky late-night session in which his opening partner, Kieran Powell, was dismissed. He had had to shepherd a nightwatchman who came in early enough for Brathwaite to farm the strike. He then had to manage an Anderson spell (6-3-5-2 ) in which he looked like taking more wickets than conceding runs.

But that is what Brathwaite does, he manages, he overcomes, and he survives. Brathwaite's strike rate of 57 in ODI cricket tells you that. He plays at one pace, he plays the Brathwaite game. The world can go to hell around him, but he'll be batting sensibly while it does.

Once the ball stopped moving, once England got frustrated, and once the sun came out, Brathwaite looked as much like a Test player, and not just a Test survivor, as he ever has.

In some ways he batted exactly as you would expect him to bat, he waited for the ball, kept it on the ground virtually all the time and only hit boundaries when they were offered. That was until he was approaching his fifty, had just survived a close call off Moeen Ali and ran down the pitch and slammed a six. It was his fourth six in Tests.

Let me repeat that, Kraigg Braithwaite, the 50s throwback nurdler who has been trained since puberty to keep the ball on the ground, ran down the wicket to bring up his fifty. And then, goddamn it, when he was within six of his hundred, he did the same bloody thing again.

It would be silly to call this a coming of age. Brathwaite came of age at 13. If anything, he seems to get better as his physicality matures to match the level that his personality reached years ago. In his career he's scored 40% of his runs from boundaries, today it was 59%. Today's innings was not the innings of a boy who was worried his father might scold him if he played a silly shot. It was the innings of a man who, when he needed to, wasn't afraid to hit the ball.

Today he took his time, until he decided it was his time.

Or as he said, "I just backed myself".