Brathwaite, Hetmyer lead strong Windies fightback

Left-handed opener Kieran Powell drives during his 40 in the West Indies second innings on the third day of the opening Test. (Photo courtesy CWI Media)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, CMC – Half-centuries from vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite and rookie Shimron Hetmyer underlined a strong West Indies effort but they faced a massive task in saving second Test, after wicketkeeper Tom Blundell’s hundred on debut left the Black Caps in a near impregnable position at the Basin Reserve.

At stumps on day three, the Caribbean side were 214 for two in their second innings but still some 172 runs adrift of avoiding an innings defeat and going one down in the two-match series.Brathwaite was unbeaten on 79 and partnered by Shai Hope on 24, with the pair having so far posted 48 in an unbroken third wicket stand. The 20-year-old Hetmyer, in his fourth Test, struck a bold 66 to pick up his maiden Test half-century while opener Kieran Powell once again got a start but failed to carry on when he perished for 40.

Seamer Matt Henry has claimed both wickets to fall to end with two for 33.

Blundell had earlier converted his overnight unbeaten 57 into 107 not out, becoming the first New Zealand wicketkeeper to score a hundred on debut.

The right-hander faced 180 balls and struck 13 fours and a six all told as the Black Caps, resuming on 447 for nine, added a further 73 before declaring on 520 for nine, 20 minutes before lunch.

Blundell extended his overnight last-wicket stand with Trent Boult (18 not out) to 78, further frustrating West Indies who rang the changes without success. The Wellington-born 27-year-old cruised to 96 at the first drinks break but then spent another half-hour battling tight Windies bowling, before he could reach three figures.

Seamer Kemar Roach finished with three for 85 while fellow pacer Miguel Cummins (2-92) and off-spinner Roston Chase (2-95) ended with two wickets apiece.

Behind by 386 runs and left with four overs to navigate before lunch, Brathwaite and Powell steered the visitors to nine without loss before pushing on afterwards to add 72 – their second half-century stand of the match.

Brathwaite dug in for the long haul and has so far faced 186 balls and struck seven fours and a six, while the left-handed Powell stroked five fours and two sixes in a breezy 55-ball innings.

Powell looked completely at ease, unveiling a series of silky off-side drives and also showing aggression against the short ball by pulling ineffective left-arm pacer Neil Wagner for sixes over square leg in successive overs.

Like the first innings, Powell appeared headed for a half-century but lost concentration in the first over following a protracted drinks break, and tapped a return catch back to Henry.

Hetmyer, given out caught behind on seven hooking at Henry 20 minutes before tea but reprieved by DRS, then grabbed the spotlight in an attractive innings with more than its share of audacious shots.

The left-hander faced 89 balls and struck eight fours and two sixes – the first a hefty blow over long on off left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner and the second an imperious straight hit of left-arm pacer Boult in an over which leaked 14 runs.

More importantly, he put on 94 for the second wicket with Brathwaite, a partnership which saw West Indies to tea on 107 for one and kept the Black Caps wicket-less for the first hour afterwards.

Brathwaite raised his 15th Test half-century 45 minutes after tea and Hetmyer followed soon afterwards, and was getting after the New Zealand bowling when he attempted to turn an innocuous delivery from Henry through the on-side, got a leading edge, and was easily taken at short mid-off by Jeet Raval.

Hope, who failed to score in the first innings, joined Brathwaite to see the Windies safely through the session, facing 66 deliveries and counting four fours.

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