India take charge on sunny day
The Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica staged its first full day of Test cricket on which India consolidated their position of strength, albeit after going through a couple of worrying phases against a depleted West Indies attack missing the services of Ravi Rampaul due to a viral infection.
The Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica staged its first full day of Test cricket on which India consolidated their position of strength, albeit after going through a couple of worrying phases against a depleted West Indies attack missing the services of Ravi Rampaul due to a viral infection. Abhinav Mukund and VVS Laxman overcame the pressure inflicted by a fiery opening spell from Fidel Edwards and Darren Sammy to build a platform for a significant lead. Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni ensured India stayed on track after a couple of freak dismissals - that involved some slick wicketkeeping from Carlton Baugh - threatened to undermine the hard work. In the end, handicapped by the absence of Rampaul and a niggle to Edwards, West Indies punched above their weight but not enough to get the better of an Indian line-up in good batting conditions. (Related: Statistical highlights of India-West Indies Day 3)
The weakened hosts would have known they were in for a long ordeal, but they made it difficult for India with an early double-strike. Edwards was dangerous with late swing, yorking M Vijay in his first over of the day and dislodging him off his first ball of the second. He should have had Rahul Dravid, deceiving him twice with his late away movement, but Darren Sammy surprised him with one that nipped back in to bowl him through the gate. Lots of patience and solidity was the need of the hour and Mukund and Laxman showed plenty of that to prop up India.
It took some resolve to recover from 18 for 2. Abhinav showed excellent concentration and grafted his way to a maiden half-century that justified his selection for the tour of England. He used his feet well against the variations in length and when Edwards tried to ruffle him with some short balls, he was adept at handling them, moving back and tapping it down with soft hands well in front of the catchers behind the wicket. Opportunities weren't wasted either, as he dispatched Devendra Bishoo's full toss and cracked Edwards behind square leg and past point for successive boundaries. Hopes of a century were cut short when he offered a bat-pad chance off Bishoo, playing a shot that fetched him a fair number of runs on Friday - the whip through square leg.
Laxman took 16 deliveries to get off the mark as the early part of his innings was spent seeing off the fast bowlers. On a big ground and a slow outfield, he rotated the strike well, picking up the pace when Bishoo was introduced into the attack. Boundaries were long, so he picked off singles and twos, playing the ball late, preferring the areas past point and down the ground as the field spread out. Bishoo didn't give too much air but when he did, Laxman caressed him through extra cover and brought up his half-century when Bishoo dragged short, pulling him over midwicket. He looked good to build on with Virat Kohli, who had progressed to 30 with Darren Sammy sticking to a leg-stump line and the track robbed of any of its early assistance.
At 168 for 3, West Indies were beginning to look deflated but an opening wasn't far away. They struck against the run of play when Kohli was caught expertly down the leg side by Baugh. What's more, even though the appeal was for a catch, his foot was found to be in the air when Baugh instinctively took off the bails. But nothing could better what followed.
Bowlers can't get more innocuous than Shivnarine Chanderpaul and that was evident when he - handed the ball after Sammy was short of options - lobbed some dobblies so outside off that Laxman didn't bother chasing them. However, those deliveries proved deceptively threatening, even though Chanderpaul - who was bowling for the first time since 2007 - would not have planned them to be. In one of the more bizarre dismissals in Tests, Laxman, having left another of those shockers alone, casually lifted his back leg a touch; Baugh took off the bails at that instant. Laxman's known for his shell-shocked expressions when dismissed - Chennai 2001, Rawalpindi 2005 spring to mind - and this one was right alongside them as he was sent back looking dumbfounded against the unlikeliest of wicket-takers.
West Indies had clawed back to make it 172 for 5. With scores of 0, 15, 2 and 5 in this series, Dhoni was under pressure but against spin, in the company of a fluent Raina and the field spread out, he stepped up to revive India. Boundaries weren't necessary as the pair ran well, working the gaps, nudging and dabbing away with Bishoo and Chanderpaul bowling extended spells.
The West Indies seamers were not at their optimum fitness: Sammy was frequently seen holding his calf muscle while Edwards got some work done on his thigh. That made it easier for India, and Dhoni and Raina took full toll of the opportunities they got. Singles were converted to twos, Raina pulled and drove Bishoo for boundaries to break a long drought while Dhoni cashed in against Edwards towards the end of the day, smacking him through square leg before launching him over mid-off. In the interim, Edwards managed to trap Raina in front off the second new ball but only after the pair had put on a century stand and Raina had notched up his third straight fifty, helping set up a potentially decisive lead, weather permitting.