The 19-year-old West Indies opener batted doggedly for 57, as the Windies, choosing to bat, reached 179 for three in their first innings, when rain stopped play about an hour earlier than scheduled on the opening day at Kensington Oval.
Brathwaite, playing in just his eighth Test, collected just four boundaries from 199 balls in a little over 4 ½ hours and put on 104 for the second wicket with compatriot Kirk Edwards, who played some powerful strokes in a solid 61.
It was the best second-wicket stand for West Indies against Australia since current manager Richie Richardson and current Ireland coach Phil Simmons added 134 at Melbourne during the 1992-93 series.
“My job was to bat and bat and bat,” he said. “The goal was to see off the new ball and set the platform.
“I kind of achieved this, but I didn’t quite stay all day. I really wanted to stay all day.”
The unflappable Brathwaite had two slices of good fortune in his knock, being dropped on 10 and 44, before reaching his 50 from 163 balls, when he clipped part-time leg-spinner David Warner through mid-wicket for two.
“My main aim is always to occupy the crease and after that look to score,” he said. “I know the areas in which I can get my runs, and I try to get the balls in the gaps and tick away.
He added: “The Australians bowled in good areas and it was not easy to get the ball off (the square). As the ball got older, it started to do a bit more and it became even harder to score, so you had to be extra watchful. We will come back [on Sunday] and look to start over and build from where we left off.”
Brathwaite’s painstaking innings came to a close, when he was caught behind off Peter Siddle, nibbling at a delivery outside the off-stump.
He got a standing ovation from a crowd that included his father Arleigh for becoming just the second West Indian after teammate Shivnarine Chanderpaul to make four half centuries before the age of 20.
“As a boy growing up, I always wanted to play Test cricket and it feels great to play a Test match in front of my home supporters,” he said.
“It felt special to come out and get a half-century. It was very important that I was able to see off the new ball and keep out the bowlers. From there, I tried to build and put a good score on the board.”