West Indies grind on dour day
West Indies 179 for 3 (K Edwards 61, Brathwaite 57) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
There's no doubt about it: the Test series has started. After two weeks of limited-overs games between these two teams and while the IPL, with its promise of immediate gratification, gets under way in India, West Indies and Australia played out a dour first day in Barbados. By the end of a rain-shortened day, neither side could claim any real advantage but Kraigg Brathwaite's stubborn half-century and Kirk Edwards' 61 had given the hosts something to build on.
An afternoon shower halted proceedings after 73 hard-fought overs in which West Indies had inched along to 179 for 3. The Australians had not long removed the limpet-like Brathwaite for 57 from 199 deliveries only to be greeted by the sight of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who during the last Caribbean series between the sides enjoyed a batting stretch of 18 hours without being dismissed, walking to the crease.
When play was abandoned for the day, Chanderpaul was on 8 and Darren Bravo had made 20 from 60 deliveries, and their partnership loomed as a key for both sides with Narsingh Deonarine the only specialist batsman still to come. The two men were hoping to build on the platform constructed by Brathwaite and Edwards but should Australia separate them early on day two, the work of the top order might be annulled.
Bravo had shown some inclination to attack early in his innings as he launched the occasional legspin of David Warner high into the stands over long-on, but he was quiet after that. It didn't help that he lost the established Brathwaite, who tickled behind off Peter Siddle to give the debutant wicketkeeper Matthew Wade his first catch in Test cricket.
It was the end of a gritty but far from unblemished innings from Brathwaite, who now has four half-centuries from his seven Tests but is yet to move beyond the 60s. The Australians dropped Brathwaite twice and Edwards once in an untidy fielding display and their partnership was allowed to blossom to 104 runs thanks to the let-offs.
Brathwaite was put down on 10 when he pushed a ball from Siddle uppishly back to the left of the bowler, who misjudged the chance and spilled the catch with his left hand. Another life came on 44, when Ricky Ponting at second slip grassed a tough diving opportunity off Shane Watson.
The simplest of all the lives was the chance given to Edwards on 56 when he edged a fullish wide ball from Siddle and Watson at fourth slip saw a sitter bounce out of his hands. Fortunately for Watson, Edwards added only five more to his score before on 61 he gave Warner his first Test wicket and just his second in first-class cricket.
Warner bowled some good balls during his spell, flighting the ball to encourage strokeplay, and Edwards obliged by driving a delivery hard back at the bowler. But Warner's reflexes were good enough and he snapped up an excellent return catch low to his right, rewarding the willingness of the captain Michael Clarke to try new things in the search for a partnership breaker.
The only wicket in the first session had come when Adrian Barath, on 22 from 54 balls, fell for an obvious plan as Ryan Harris came around the wicket with a short-leg and deep backward square leg in position. The bouncer was bowled and Barath obliged with an attempted hook that flew off the top edge and was easily taken by Siddle at deep backward square leg.
But that brought Edwards and Brathwaite together and they dug in to deny Australia's bowlers. Brathwaite is renowned as an old-fashioned style of opener, one whose first priority is survival and a player for whom scoring appears to be an afterthought. That was precisely how he played his first Test innings at his home ground, Kensington Oval.
He took few risks, although a couple of drives flew off the edge through gaps, and his four boundaries all came behind the wicket. He ended the innings with a strike-rate of 32.80 in his short Test career, comfortably the lowest of regular specialist batsmen in Tests in the past year, but West Indies would prefer an opener who can grind out a half-century than one who flashes and falls quickly.
Generally, it was up to Brathwaite's partners to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Edwards did that through some confident strokeplay down the ground against the offspin of Nathan Lyon. Edwards lifted Lyon over long-on for a six and was happy to drive him along the ground, while he also picked off the fast men when they strayed on to his pads.
His half-century came with an impressive loft over long-off against the legspin of Warner from his 97th delivery, whereas Brathwaite took 163 balls to bring up his fifty. Together they caused problems for Australia's fast men, who found early swing but couldn't force enough shots to make it dangerous.
Harris was included and James Pattinson was named 12th man, and there were times when Clarke must have wished for Pattinson's explosiveness and ability to run through an order. By the close of play Australia had fought back but the first session of day two loomed as a big one for both teams.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here