An emotional Nkrumah Bonner said Thursday scoring his maiden Test hundred had been a “childhood dream” come true, admitting he almost broke down in tears after reaching the landmark in the final session of the last day of the opening Test against Sri Lanka.
Resuming from his overnight 15 with West Indies on 34 for one in pursuit of 375 for victory at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, Bonner batted the entire day to carve out a masterful unbeaten 113 and earn his side a draw in the contest.
He spent eight deliveries on 99 before caressing left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando to the cover boundary to reach the deserved landmark.
“Obviously a Test hundred doesn’t walk around in the shop and it’s truly special for me. As I said before, it’s my childhood dream and there were all the emotions. When I was out there, I felt like crying,” the Jamaican said afterward.
“I don’t think those emotions can be explained. It’s something that you have to experience. It’s really special, that’s all I can say.
“And obviously seeing my teammates clapping and everyone cheering is a truly special moment. I know my family and friends back home will be proud of me and I’m sure they have the same emotions as me.”
The right-hander struck 13 fours and a six in 274 deliveries and just over seven hours at the crease, in a composed innings which earned him Man-of-the-Match honours.
But things almost came apart on 99. With rain around and ground-staff preparing to bring the covers on, Bonner began to play out of character in a quest to score the elusive run.
It required the intervention of his partner, former captain Jason Holder, for him to regain his composure.
“When I was at 99, the rain was coming,” Bonner recalled.
“Obviously I didn’t want to stay not out on 99 but Jason came down to me and said ‘just stay calm and keep doing what you’re doing. Stick to your plans’. Obviously I went back to that and it worked out.”
The closest Bonner came to losing his wicket was when he was given out caught behind on 52 off left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, about 35 minutes after lunch.
He immediately reviewed the decision, however, and was given a reprieve by DRS.
Crucially, he anchored a 66-run, second wicket stand with captain Kraigg Brathwaite (23), put on a further 105 for the third with Kyle Mayers (52) before adding 32 in an unbroken fifth wicket stand with Holder (18 not out).
Bonner said key to his innings was remaining disciplined, especially against a very challenging Sri Lankan attack.
“Obviously at the start of the day today, it was important for us to start good. We know the discipline of the Sri Lankans bowlers and the skill as well so it was important to bat the first two sessions and take it from there,” he explained.
“In the first innings, my foot wasn’t moving as much as I wanted it to, I did some work in the nets with the batting coach (Monty Desai) and I want to say thank you to him.
“[The] Sri Lankan bowlers are very disciplined so it was important for me to construct my innings [in a disciplined way] and keep the ball in the ‘V’ as much as possible.
“I think (Suranga) Lakmal was really challenging. I think he bowled in really good areas and has really good skills. All of them posed different challenges but obviously, he was a cut above the rest.”
Bonner’s career has been a bit of a fairytale. He made his West Indies debut 10 years ago in a Twenty20 International, played two matches seven months apart and never featured again.
After a couple prolific seasons in the first-class championship, he forced his way into the Test setup and made his debut in Bangladesh last month at age 32, and now has a century and two fifties in six Test innings.
“The old people like to say everything happens for a reason,” Bonner mused.
“Obviously I made my [T20 International] debut in 2011 and obviously I wanted to play earlier but it didn’t happen.
“There was a lot of toil and failures and success and everything along the way but they taught me some valuable lessons and obviously some of those lessons I’ve put into this [performance].”