NORTH SOUND, Antigua, (CMC) – Unflappable right-hander Nkrumah Bonner composed a high quality maiden Test hundred to undergird West Indies’ final day resistance, as the home side defied a determined effort from Sri Lanka to earn a deserved draw in the opening Test here Thursday.
Resuming from their overnight 34 for one in pursuit of an improbable target 375, West Indies never looked in danger at any point as the 32-year-old Bonner batted the entire day for an unbeaten 113 to crystallize the result. Left-hander Kyle Mayers struck 52 and captain Kraigg Brathwaite chipped in with a dogged 23, batting around Bonner to lift West Indies to 236 for four, before Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne finally called time on his side’s victory quest with ten of the mandatory 15 overs in the final hour still to be bowled. Starting the day on 15, Bonner faced 274 deliveries in a shade over seven hours at the crease, and struck 13 fours and one six, demonstrating composure and maturity which belied his inexperience at highest level. Crucially, he extended his overnight second wicket stand with Brathwaite to 66 before posting a precious 105 for the third wicket with Mayers, and then seeing out the contest in an unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 32 with former captain Jason Holder (18 not out).
In only his third Test after making his debut last month in Bangladesh, the Jamaican has now scored a hundred and two half-centuries in six innings, to extend the prolific start to his career. “This is truly special for me. This is my childhood dream and I am really happy I got this monkey off my back,” Bonner said afterwards.
“Obviously the team had a game plan. From the evening before, we had discussions and basically the coach and the team said we wanted to bat for ourselves, bat for our families and the people who support West Indies cricket.” The resolute Bonner never wavered in his chance-less innings. He enjoyed a slice of fortune on 52, about 35 minutes after lunch when he was adjudged caught behind by umpire Joel Wilson as he pushed forward at left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya.
However, he immediately reviewed the decision and was vindicated by DRS.
Unfazed, he climbed into the 90s after tea with a searing straight drive off luckless fast bowler Suranga Lakmal before smashing Vishwa Fernando (2-73) to the point boundary to move to 95.
He crawled to 99 where he spent eight deliveries before bringing up three figures with the classiest of cover drives for four off Fernando.
“He’s done it in two Test matches so far and it was great to see him get his hundred this time because he’s had [a ninety] before,” said head coach Phil Simmons.
“His dedication and application is only getting better.” With just about any result possible at the start at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, West Indies got the better of the first session as Bonner and Brathwaite kept Sri Lanka without success for the first hour. However, Sri Lanka struck 25 minutes before lunch when Brathwaite advanced to Embuldeniya (2-62), played down the wrong line and was bowled after facing 124 deliveries in just over three hours.
Bonner raised his half-century three balls before the interval when he punched seamer Dushmantha Chameera to mid on for a single to be unbeaten on exactly 50 at the break with West Indies on 91 for two. He and Mayers then dominated the second session to keep Sri Lanka wicket-less, reviving memories of their exploits in Bangladesh as they played with confidence against the varied attack. Mayers reached his half-century three balls before tea with a single to long-off off Dhananjaya de Silva’s off-spin, to be unbeaten on 50 at the break, partnered by Bonner on 84, with the hosts on 181 for two. However, Mayers lasted only four balls after the resumption before driving loosely at Embuldeniya and edging to first slip where Lahiru Thirimanne juggled before holding on to the catch.
Vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood never settled and was a victim of the second new ball, bowled by Vishwa Fernando (2-73) for four approaching the hour mark after tea. But once a compact Holder joined Bonner to offer assurance there would be no collapse, the result was never really in question especially with time ticking away.
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