After 10-year wait, Nkrumah Bonner scripts a nine-hour epic

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Nkrumah Bonner looks the part. He combines an orthodox technique with a contented strut. His sleeves are long and his collar is popped. He takes guard by removing a bail and hammering it into the ground. Classical style combined with Caribbean flair. The Jamaican James Bond.

It would be wrong to describe Bonner’s exemplary hundred today, his second in Test cricket, as an arrival on the scene. Bonner’s been about for a long time.

An international debut came in 2011 in a T20I against England, in which he scored three runs and bowled two overs for 18. A second unsuccessful appearance came six months later against Australia. He scored a tortuous 27 off 34 balls and was promptly dropped.

And from that point, nothing. No runs, no call-ups, nada. Between 2012 and 2019, Bonner didn’t score a first-class century and only averaged above 30 in a first-class season once. But then a switch flipped.

Called back into the Jamaica side in early 2019, Bonner scored 97 against Barbados in an innings he describes as the turning point of his career. From that day forward the floodgates were opened. Runs, Nkrumah, runs. They’re everywhere.

Nkrumah Bonner plays the cut shot (Photo: CWI Media)

His career average until that point had been 24.05. But in the time since, and as he walked off today with 123 to his name, he has averaged 49.53. He has more than doubled as a player.

“Sometimes,” Bonner said after a considered pause when asked about whether he had considered quitting at all over the last ten years.

“There have been ups and downs for me, but I always keep the faith and keep believing and finally it’s paid off.”

The trials and tribulations of those ten years in the wilderness are mirrored by the highs and lows of what has been an extraordinary ten-match Test career so far. He was the lesser-sung hero in West Indies’ historic victory against Bangladesh, where they successfully chased 395 thanks to debutant Kyle Mayers’ double-century.

Bonner was also on debut and scored 86 off 245 balls. He was in the team for West Indies’ incredible one-wicket win against Pakistan in August, and on two of his three trips to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium to play Test cricket he has left with a century.

Both of Nkrumah Bonner’s Test hundreds have come at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium (Photo: CWI Media)

Every other time Nkrumah Bonner steps onto the pitch as a Test cricketer, something extraordinary happens.

“It was very emotional, for sure,” Bonner said of his century at the close of play. “Goosebumps take up all of my body. Getting some runs against England is always a good feeling, especially against a team under some pressure.”

Over the course of two days here in Antigua, Bonner didn’t so much put England to the sword but maintained pressure on a bruise and asked them if it hurt. Relentless in his obduracy. He bats with minimal movement, hanging on the back foot and bringing the bat down straight.

On bad days it will be the source of criticism that he doesn’t get forward and is stuck on the crease. But on the good days it gives the illusion of a man with time on his side, unfazed and unprovoked by the ball’s appearance in front of him. Why would I move forward if you’re the one bowling to me? I know it’ll get here.

“All of my runs are always gritty, I’m not a freescoring guy, I’m very disciplined. My power is about concentration.”

It is a statement in keeping with any and all of Bonner’s interviews, the need for mental toughness. Just hang in there, win the next battle, you can do it. And given he’s done that for ten years, it’s little surprise that it was on show here for two days.

Early in this innings he was forced to negotiate a spell of high-class reverse swing bowling and early this morning he took on the second new ball. He faced all manner of plans and challenges but, for all that England could throw at him, the Jamaican James Bond was neither shaken, nor stirred. (ESPNcricinfo)

 

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