Match Analysis

Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood leave England blunted and bruised

West Indies' day built on the resolve of two players with contrasting back stories

Cameron Ponsonby
Jermaine Blackwood made his third Test century  •  Getty Images

Jermaine Blackwood made his third Test century  •  Getty Images

Centuries for Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood underpinned an excellent day for the West Indies as they shared a 183 run stand that kept England toiling in the heat at Kensington Oval.
This wasn't a day to overly criticise England or overly lavish West Indies with praise. On a pitch prime for batting but offering some spin, England bowled with control and intent but came up against two West Indians who were able to call on more of both.
As the pace in cricket goes up, batting becomes less about footwork and more about weight transfer. That is why batters have a slightly wider stance to the quickest of bowlers - there simply isn't time for the textbook lunge forward when the game is operating at its fastest.
And so when Blackwood, well set and recently having raised a half-century, took a big stride forward to Matt Fisher and played him under his eyes, you could come to the conclusion that, yeah, it's looking a bit slow out there.
In all, Brathwaite was the star of proceedings. Batting from start to finish he brought up his 10th Test century, and his first at his home ground in Barbados. It was a return to the Brathwaite we have come to know over the years after he briefly traded his watchful style in favour of muscle and boundaries in Antigua. But here, he battled and bunted an England attack that by the end of the day's play looked blunted and bruised.
Brathwaite has come in for criticism over the years for batting too slowly, but here he once again proved his worth as he brought up his century off 274 deliveries. In doing so, he briefly took ownership of a curious stat, becoming the player with the lowest average to score ten Test centuries. By the close, he had ticked his average up above the next man on the list: Ian Botham.
"I always love batting with Kraigg," Blackwood said. "He's captain of the team, I'm vice-captain, so whenever we correspond at the crease we always tell each other we want to bat as long as possible, and score as many runs as possible."
For Blackwood, it was just his third century in a 45-match long career that has spanned almost eight years. A player once memorably described as someone who "fights fire with gasoline", Blackwood has had to make a conscious decision in recent years to rein himself back in from the flashes of, let's say, "enthusiasm", that saw him often throw away his wicket in the early stages of his career - a habit that reared its head again last week in Antigua as he was dismissed playing a horrible hack off only his third ball when trying to save the Test.
Blackwood's innings was not without fortune. He would have been out lbw on nought had England chosen to review and he was bowled on 65 only for what would have been Saqib Mahmood's maiden Test wicket to be ruled out after he had overstepped. But fortune favoured Jermaine, and to see the relief that stretched across his face as he reached three figures was to see a man who for all his eccentricities shares the same pride in performance as anyone else. It was a century made of both luck and judgement.
"Very emotional," Blackwood said of the moment. "Coming into this game I felt a bit of pressure. The captain and my team-mates had faith in me, but I feel under pressure, wanting to score runs for my team. Feels very good, I actually cried after I got my century, because I knew how special it was.
"I like playing against England, I had my first century against them. Coming into this series, I knew it was going to be challenging. I didn't score any runs in the first game, so I told myself this game, I have to score big for my team."
A sign of England's frustrations came in a heated exchange between Blackwood and Ben Stokes, with the umpires stepping in. But rather than unsettling Blackwood, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
"From long, Ben Stokes always likes to come at me with a bit of banter," he said. I love it, I think it's good for the cricket. I don't have a problem with it. That boosts my confidence, as well, whenever I hear someone talking at me. It got me to stay more focused, so I'm really glad he did that."

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby