Brathwaite, Blackwood beat heat to post half-centuries
GEELONG, Australia (CMC):Opener Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood both gathered half-centuries as West Indies survived a day of extreme temperatures to flourish on the opening day of their two-day tour fixture against Victoria XI yesterday.Brathwaite struck 78, while Blackwood carved out 69 at the Simonds Stadium with the mercury reaching 308C and soaring to 438 by the afternoon – one of the hottest days on record in the history of Australia.Several West Indies batsmen got starts but none were able to reach three-figures. However, the outing served as a much-needed build-up for the second Test match against Australia, slated for the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, starting on Boxing Day.Marlon Samuels hit 45, Denesh Ramdin scored 38 not out, while opener Rajindra Chandrika chipped in with 28.Leg-spinner Jeremy Hart was the best bowler with four for 93.The 23-year-old Brathwaite again looked in good touch and appeared set for a century before he retired at the tea break after facing 175 balls and counting eight boundaries on both sides of the wicket off both pace and spin.He was largely untroubled throughout his knock and it backed up his stroke-filled 94 in the first Test.The right-hander shared three productive stands to give West Indies a handy start, posting 47 for the first wicket with Chandrika, 68 for the second wicket with Samuels and a breezy third-wicket stand of 99 with Blackwood.The right-handed Blackwood’s knock was important, especially after failing to score in either innings of the Hobart Test. He faced 102 balls and hit seven fours and a six in what was a good comeback following the double failure.Samuels showed a glimpse of his prowess with an innings containing seven crisp boundaries off 39 balls, but touched an out-swinger to the keeper just when he looked set for much more.The innings slipped from 226 for three to 257 for seven in the final session as West Indies lost four quick wickets for 31 runs. However, Ramdin found a good partner in Jomel Warrican and the pair has so far added 43 in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand.Ramdin, who looked solid off both the front foot and back foot, has so far counted four fours off 73 deliveries, while Warrican mixed unorthodox defence with measured aggression to close on 22 not out.