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April 7, 2012
Whenever the opposition starts to get chatty, Kraigg Brathwaite knows he doing his job. He did it very well indeed on the first day in Barbados, holding up the tourists for more than four hours on the way to a scene-setting 57, to grant his side the chance of a competitive total.
A conservative player since his early teens, Brathwaite has no great pretensions about advancing into a more florid style, and takes his cues from the mood of the opposition. When they are silent, he wants to get them talking, to know that their energy is being projected in terms of frustration rather than focus. That's precisely what happened the longer he batted against Australia, and Brathwaite was happy to hear it.
"I believe they were getting a little frustrated, they started talking and stuff," Brathwaite said. "As you all know I take my time, I look to get in and let the batters bat around me, make it easier for them. Once the opposition start to get frustrated, a lot of talking goes on - I feel quite good when it happens.
"[Peter] Siddle was giving me some chat but that's all part of the game. Early on with the new ball [Ryan] Harris bowled quite good. [Ben] Hilfenhaus got a bit of swing but probably wasn't getting the assistance like Harris. A little bit later I thought [Shane] Watson had it swinging both ways more than anyone else."
The most fluent passages of the days' play - there were few - took place when Brathwaite was batting with Kirk Edwards, the team's inexperienced but highly impressive vice-captain. Edwards' stance looks more functional than fluent, but his shots are powerful, and he played with considerable presence until David Warner held onto a fierce back foot drive for a return catch.
"I play a lot of cricket with Kirk and he's a very positive man," Brathwaite said. "Once he's out there he raises the score, it's quite good to bat with him. I think he's doing a good job [as vice-captain]. He's got a strong head and I back him 110%.
"We started out saying we're not going to back down. Australia was going to come hard, the pitch wasn't that easy, as the ball got older it was a little harder to score and they were bowling good lines so we just decided we were going to work hard and not give our wickets away."
Warner admitted some of the visitors had been less than enchanted with Brathwaite's approach, but argued that West Indies' careful batting had meant Australia are not too far from parity provided they can scoop quick wickets on the second morning.
"A couple of guys said 'I don't know how you can do that' but that's the way he plays," Warner said. "I don't know his game-plan but it looked like he was trying to see the shine off the ball and get to the second new rock. That just proves the point that the game wasn't getting away from us and they weren't moving on at all because with him just leaving everything and not putting scoreboard pressure on it works to our advantage.
"We know they're a very good fielding unit and when they take one or two wickets they're always up in your face. The thing we've got to do is, when we bat, we've got to try and get partnerships. That's the key and we know if we get one good partnership and have the guys out there for an hour to two hours, we know they're going to have to play boring cricket as well."
The wicket of Edwards provided Warner with plenty of reason to be chirpy, being his first in Test matches. But it also backed up a more serious point about the value of part-time bowlers. The national selector John Inverarity is adamant that more batsmen should bowl, and Warner's status as a lapsed junior legspinner has been slowly turned around.
"Growing up I bowled a lot of leg-spin. My junior stuff I was batting six and bowling a lot of leggies," Warner said. "That sort of, not went out the window - I was still bowling them in the nets - but perhaps not practising them as much as I should be.
"It's only this trip and throughout the summer that Craig McDermott and the coaches have said to me that we're going to need you to bowl here and we've got the Indian series coming up as well and that's going to be a massive part. It adds a string to the team as well. If we play two spinners you have an extra spinner there and obviously Michael [Clarke] bowls as well. It's an advantage to the team in these conditions and I'm going to be practising a lot more in the nets."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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