Carlos Brathwaite was feeling a range of emotions by the time all was said and done on Saturday, June 22, at Old Trafford.
Even as West Indies’ World Cup hopes were rapidly slipping away, Brathwaite put up a performance for the ages to nearly pull off one of the great one-day chases. With his side flagging in a chase of 292, Brathwaite tested the might of New Zealand’s bowling attack by launching a stunning assault to bring West Indies within five runs of New Zealand’s total.
And then, at the last hurdle, with West Indies one hit away from a famous win, Brathwaite’s almighty swing found the fielder, as Trent Boult sprang to his right at long-on and leaped under pressure to snaffle the ball inches in front of the boundary.
With that, West Indies’ innings came to a close, all out for 286. Brathwaite sunk to his knees even as the New Zealand team gathered around to console him. But for Brathwaite, the disappointment came alongside a tinge of happiness.
After a string of low scores, the all-rounder was on the verge of being dropped and only played the game because an injury had kept Andre Russell out. He responded with arguably the most defining innings of his career since the epic World T20 final finish against England at Eden Gardens in 2016.
Carlos Brathwaite, what an astonishing innings! He reaches his maiden ODI century from 80 balls and has taken the West Indies so close to an amazing win. West Indies 284-9 (48). #WIvNZ #CWC19 #Cheers pic.twitter.com/7dg7bc14hC
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) June 22, 2019
“It is a cliché to say that it doesn’t matter if you don’t win, but for me, personally, for my confidence, it is a result of all the hard work that I put in,” Brathwaite said, reflecting on his first international century. “It is finally good that it has come to fruition. Obviously heartbreaking to not get over the line, but I give thanks for the performance and being able to get the team in the position that I was able to.”
When Brathwaite arrived at the crease on Saturday, West Indies were 142-4 in the 23rd over, having lost two wickets on the same score. They would continue on a downward spiral, slipping to 152-5 and, eventually, 211-8. But Brathwaite rallied around the lower order superbly to deny New Zealand.
Perhaps the most stunning passage of his innings came in the 48th, when Brathwaite laid into Matt Henry’s right-arm pace, launching the fast bowler for three sixes and a four. To further illustrate the magnitude of that onslaught, from a required run rate of 11 at the start of that over, West Indies were left to get four an over off the last two.
Jimmy Neesham, though, bowled a fantastic 49th over, giving away just two runs off the first five balls. Perhaps as a consequence of the pressure built up by those dots, Brathwaite went for it off the over’s last ball, when he could have very well taken a single and retained strike. It would have still given West Indies a very manageable five off the last over.
“When I lost [Sheldon] Cottrell, then Lockie [Ferguson] had one over to go and Boult had one to go,” Brathwaite said. “And the thinking was, if we see them off, we can get 30 in three overs.
“I did tell Oshane about it [the possibility of a single]. Told him we remain positive. We are one hit away. Probably memories came back of 2016 [World T20] when I played a game against Afghanistan and patted a full toss for a single instead of hitting it for a six. My thinking was still ‘watch the ball, still react’, and if it is not a ball that I can get a six off, I try to get a single. He was on high alert, but if it came in my area, I try and finish the game in that ball.
“I thought I had enough bat on it. Unfortunately it didn’t. Also, it went to probably one of the better fielders in the world as well. So, yeah, it is what is. A game of margins. One or two yards more, we could be victorious.”
Brathwaite, however, said that he wouldn’t beat himself up over the finish and expressed gratitude at his hard work having finally paid off. “I am not going to beat myself up because the ball should have gone for six, and we should have won,” he said.
“I know I can [bat], I know I should. I never stopped working, I kept working hard. It’s great to see hard work pay off. At the end of the day, it is a century in a losing cause, which is bittersweet.”
While he may have stunned the world with his brutal hitting, Brathwaite’s batting did not surprise his captain Jason Holder. “His work ethic is really good,” Holder said. “He’s not one to shy away from his responsibilities. And he puts in really good effort into his preparation. And that’s one thing that I credit him for. The knock that he played today is not surprising to me.”
Brathwaite also had a word of appreciation for the New Zealand team, who showed a great amount of respect when they gathered around the fallen West Indian at the end of the game. “New Zealanders are some of the best people in the world to share a dressing room with or to play against,” Brathwaite said.
“I obviously socialise with them at franchise tournaments and am good friends with a few of the boys. I guess it didn’t mean much at that point in time because you are just getting over watching Boult take the catch and losing. In hindsight, it was good sportsmanship on their behalf. I appreciate the mutual respect the opposition had.”