The first day of the first Test nearly replayed itself on the first day of the second Test, albeit on a much truer and bouncier pitch. Ravi Rampaul ran through the top order again, with his figures 8-5-4-3 at lunch. Suresh Raina was again involved in a middle-session comeback, only this time the dominating partner in that partnership was the soothing VVS Laxman. It would have been too much to keep him from runs on difficult tracks for the third time in a row. Once again West Indies roared back in the final session through Deevedra Bishoo's big wickets and Fidel Edward's sharp pace. To add more to an eventful day, Indian bowlers got rid of the openers for next to nothing in the last hour.
There was a lot of pace, a lot of bounce, bouncers, yorkers, some turn, there were lovely wristy flicks and whips, there were cover-drives. It went 38 for 4 to 155 for 4 to 201 all out, and then 30 for 3. You'll have trouble fitting in more twists and action in one day of cricket.
This was without doubt the closest pitch to what West Indies would have desired. True and high bounce, some moisture, and they won the toss and asked India to face the music. Rampaul's tune wasn't quite music for India, though. For the fourth time out of seven this season, he began an innings with a wicket in his first over. Abhinav Mukund was the unlucky one this one, falling to one that jumped off a length and took the shoulder of his bat. It could be argued that he could have left it alone on line.
Edwards was almost like a kid in a toy store, bowling bouncer after bouncer, getting carried away, making the batsmen play only 10 times in his first four overs. Captain Darren Sammy brought himself on early, and with his seventh delivery removed the man he had famously dropped in Jamaica. This was also perhaps the ball of the session: pitching on off, kicking at Rahul Dravid, leaving him, taking the glove.
M Vijay showed a mix of restraint and indiscipline in his 75-ball stay for 11, and with Edwards being ineffective even in his second spell India seemed on their way to recovery. Around 15 minutes before lunch, though, Rampaul came back with telling impact. With the first ball he got Vijay caught down the leg side, with the third he made Kohli look worse than he has in his young and promising international career. The ball angled in to him, left him after pitching, bounced high, and even as Kohli was preparing to play it, the ball hit the glove and lobbed off. As Jeff Dujon said, "The ball played him."
Laxman, no stranger to scores such as 38 for 4, showed up after having gone AWOL in Jamaica. It was business as usual for him. With others around him in shackles, Laxman scored fluently and yet non-violently. First he pulled the bouncers for boundaries to put an end to the short-pitched stuff. In the last over before his lunch, he smacked Bishoo through midwicket.
He feasted on Rampaul when back from lunch. He whipped the first ball he faced in the second session past mid-on for two. The next he punched past point for four, and then glanced another for four more. If West Indies were not worried yet, Raina pulled out a couple of unorthodox shots, and we now had a sweeper-cover to allow them the singles.
When Edwards worked up some pace in the afternoon, Laxman was good at dropping his wrists under a 92mph bouncer. The sucker ball he flicked away fine of fine leg to reach his fifty out of a score for 93 for 4. There were signs that West Indies backed off too soon, as displayed by the presence of the sweeper-cover early on in the partnerships. Singles came, Raina's fifty came, the partnership's 100 came, tea came, but West Indies search for inspiration bore no result.
And then Bishoo found extra bounce, into Raina's thigh pad, getting him caught bat-pad. Raina's reaction suggested he hadn't hit it. Front-on replays backed Raina's claims, but one of the angles didn't entirely rule out a touch of the glove. Had the DRS been employed in this series without the Hot Spot, it would have proved useless.
Be that as it may, nothing should take away from an entertaining Edwards spell. There were two sets of five wides over the head, there were no-balls, and there was serious pace and bounce. MS Dhoni fell to one that stopped, Harbhajan Singh found out he would need to fend at a bouncer to protect his face, Abhimanyu Mithun lost his leg stump while trying to save his legs.
At the other end, Laxman became the fourth Indian to 8000 Test runs overall and 1000 in the West Indies, but with wickets falling at the other end, runs dried up. Having scored just 12 off the previous 32 deliveries, Laxman went for the cut, the Bishoo legbreak got big on him, and was caught at cover-point.
With the ball swinging and bouncing, India added the final touches of evenness to the day's proceedings by taking three wickets before stumps. Adrian Barath played a strange shot, guiding a rising Ishant Sharma delivery to gully, right off the middle of the bat. Lendl Simmons fell to Praveen Kumar's late away swing. In the last over of the day, Abhimany Mithun produced a caught-behind verdict against Darren Bravo, who wasn't impressed, but again he would have struggled to prove the umpire wrong, so inconclusive were the replays.
Another four-day finish was on the cards.