India edged out a day of fluctuating fortunes to take complete control of a rain-marred third Test in Dominica, boosting their chances of a maiden 2-0 series win in the Caribbean by upsetting a determined fightback from the hosts led by Kirk Edwards, who scored a century on debut. Edwards' confidence and composure while approaching his landmark was a contrast to his edginess and uncertainty in the early part of his innings, and he was guided along by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who fought his own battles and survived to take the game into the fifth day. However, the loss of three wickets in the final session, made possible by an improved spell by Harbhajan Singh, meant the game was still India's.
Edwards had big boots to fill when he was picked for this Test ahead of Ramnaresh Sarwan. He was left out of the West Indies squad for the final two ODIs against India and would have been under some pressure coming in to this game, then being dismissed early in his first outing and faced with the responsibility of rebuilding the innings after the early loss of the openers in the second. The nerves were on show against a testing spell by the Indian seamers on a track offering some assistance early on, and against the turn and byte Harbhajan Singh was able to extract. Munaf Patel roughed him up with a couple of bouncers that he failed to keep down - Edwards had succumbed to the short ball in the first innings - and Harbhajan produced a half-chance towards short leg with his line from round the wicket.
Edwards, however, overcame the tough initiation. He was a beneficiary of a packed off-side field against spin, being able to comfortably work the straighter ones around to rotate the strike, and an overdose of short deliveries from the seamers, who perhaps helped him conquer his weakness. He pulled Munaf twice to the midwicket boundary, inflicted the same treatment on Ishant Sharma and in the session after tea, having reached his half-century, confidently stepped out to Harbhajan when he'd been playing back to him for much of the day. A pulled six off Abhinav Mukund and a delightful straight drive off Ishant Sharma later, he joined an illustrious list of West Indians including George Headley and Lawrence Rowe in freakish fashion, surviving a run-out chance when Harbhajan missed a direct hit and completed the landmark on an overthrow.
Harbhajan eventually got Edwards, however. India had expected more from him on a spin-friendly track in Barbados where West Indies managed to save the game, but he stepped up in conditions with lesser, but adequate, assistance on Saturday. He bamboozled a set Darren Bravo with a vicious turner that zipped from leg to beat the outside edge, and trapped him next ball with a flighted delivery that Bravo, sensing a release, miscued to mid-off. Edwards seemed to have fought off the threat, but when Harbhajan came round the wicket and got some extra bounce, he edged a tired cut to MS Dhoni to trigger India's fightback.
Marlon Samuels survived a close lbw shout first ball when he played back to a flighted delivery and repeated the folly two balls against a quicker one; he was given out lbw by umpire Richard Kettleborough but replays showed the ball to be missing off. Watching the slide from the other end was Chanderpaul, who had to rebuild all over again.
Before the series, Chanderpaul hadn't been dismissed by Harbhajan in more than 500 deliveries but was made to graft on Saturday. He was beaten on more than one occasion, survived two lbw shouts, edged one just past VVS Laxman and was dropped by Rahul Dravid at slip and struck a painful blow by Munaf on his thigh. But he grew in confidence once the part-timers were introduced and took advantage of the vacant leg-side field before tea to get going.
After the break, Chanderpaul looked more assured with a few runs and a fighting stand behind his back. His first boundary came off his 113th delivery, an on-drive off Praveen Kumar and he followed up by cutting Harbhajan past point. He dispatched a long-hop from Abhinav on his way to a half-century and had begun stitching a useful stand with Carlton Baugh, who deserted him with a loose shot to cover against the new ball off Praveen. Another long and difficult ordeal lay in store for West Indies' most-capped player.
West Indies' batting has let them down this series and though the returns were better on Saturday, it undermined an excellent effort from Fidel Edwards, who limited India's lead to 143 with his second consecutive five-for. His short stuff in a fiery morning spell proved too hot to handle for the Indian batsmen and they were bowled out in quick time. The West Indies openers, though, were quick to intensify the pressure the hosts were under. India's bowlers were persistent with their off-stump line and bowled to a packed off-side field which, at one point, included four slips. Kieran Powell and Adrian Barath were only too willing to play into India's hands, almost literally, poking at deliveries outside off to gift catches to slip, leaving those who followed with a taller mountain to scale.