Barbados: On a day that saw two brilliant half-centuries amidst 14 wickets falling and a lesser known bowler bowling a superb spell, Delorn Johnson delivered the most telling blows to put West Indies A in control of the second four-day match against India A at close of play on Day 3.
Overnight six for no loss, West Indies A were bowled out for 204 with left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar taking 6 for 67, but this was quickly overshadowed by left-arm quick Johnson prising out the first four Indian wickets to leave the tourists gasping for breath at 57 for 4, chasing 220 for victory.
India A began the day well, with Shami Ahmed bowling a good spell first up to take the wicket of Justin Guillen, caught at short mid-on. After Ahmed's and Ashok Dinda's openings spells, Cheteshwar Pujara, the India A captain, opted for quick rotation of his spinners.
The move paid off with Darekar striking twice as West Indies A went in to lunch at 63 for 3. Darekar then turned it on even more in the second session, with ripping spin on a difficult pitch, reducing West Indies A to 80 for 5 with two more wickets - including that of first innings hero Kraigg Brathwaite. At that stage, Darekar had figures of four for 12 off 14 overs.
Donovan Pagon walked out at Number seven, much below his normal one-drop position because he had been off the field all day on Day 2. That was the start of the turn-around for West Indies as Pagon and Jonathan Carter counter-attacked superbly. The pair clearly thought the best way to tackle Darekar was to attack him. Carter hit him for a boundary straight, and Pagon went one better slamming two sixes, including one to get off the mark.
Pujara was forced to remove Darekar from the attack and the West Indian pair had successfully neutralized India's best bowler of the day. They raised the 50 partnership off just 59 balls and continued to attack the bowling. The stand was worth 86 runs before India A got a breakthrough, with Carter getting caught at cover off the bowling of Dinda. He departed for 74 off 97 balls, and had played his part in taking West Indies to a position of some safety with the highest score of the match so far.
India A fought back with more wickets after that breakthrough, but Pagon was still there at tea with West Indies 180 for 8, leading by 195 runs. He finally fell for 67 to Darekar, the spinner getting his revenge in the end. With the innings wrapped up for 204, the victory target for India A was 220 - not easy, but not ungettable.
However, Delorn Johnson ensured that by the end of the day, it looked nigh impossible. There were only 20 overs for India A to bat, but Johnson struck telling blows - the most damaging of which was the final one. After accounting for Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund, he got Pujara to edge an outswinger straight to the keeper.
Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary survived a testing final seven overs to take India through to 57 for 4 at the end of the day. The match is thus set-up well for a thrilling last-day finish, with two of the more accomplished batsmen from India A chasing against bowlers who have bowled well on a difficult pitch.