India vs West Indies: Bravo stars as West Indies pile on 575
The talk before the start of the Test had been about West Indies' line-up having only seven centuries on their resume while India's boasted 20 times as many, but two days into the match it was the less-decorated batting unit that had put on 575.
The talk before the start of the Test had been about West Indies' line-up having only seven centuries on their resume while India's boasted 20 times as many, but two days into the match it was the less-decorated batting unit that had put on 575. Darren Bravo crafted his third hundred in four Tests to lead the way, while Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell were left to rue missing centuries on a shirtfront at the Wankhede.
Marlon Samuels partook in the run-fest after tea, to make it only the fifth time in Test history that each of the top six made half-centuries. Varun Aaron, the debutant fast bowler who was ordinary for much of the innings, showed plenty of tenacity to bowl a quick spell even as West Indies' total swelled past 500, earning three wickets to spark a late collapse.
The tone for the day was set by Bravo, who caressed the first two deliveries of the morning between the bowler Aaron and mid-off for four. West Indies plundered 111 runs before lunch, after which India went completely on the defensive - spreading the field, and giving the part-timers, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, extended spells. The strategy reduced the boundaries but there was no flagging of the run-rate, as an untroubled West Indies marched towards 500.
Like on Tuesday, there was little to encourage India's fast bowlers. Bravo showed how easy the track was to bat on as he pulled an Aaron bouncer wide of mid-on for four. His partner Edwards continued to showcase his driving skills, and a muscular style that favours the on-side. Edwards was more tentative than Bravo and he eventually fell short of a third Test century when he nicked a short of length ball to the keeper, giving Ishant Sharma reward for a long, tight spell.
That brought in Powell, who started shakily - getting knocked on the back of his helmet by Ishant on his first delivery. That didn't faze the 21-year-old, though, and he showed off his footwork against spin, dishing out a boundary an over. Powell initially dominated his partnership with the well-set Bravo, making his intentions clear early on by charging and lofting offspinner R Ashwin over his head, a stroke he repeated several times against the spinners.
Bravo was briefly starved of the strike when Powell got going, but he didn't lose his rhythm. He continued to favour the off side, using the graceful back-foot punch between cover and point heavily. His century came up with a slice past cover for four a few overs before lunch. There was no Lara-like leap in the air to celebrate the milestone this time, just a kiss of the bat and wave of the cap.
There were a couple of close calls for the West Indies batsmen after lunch: two overs in, Powell was nearly run out by MS Dhoni, and in the next over Bravo nicked a delivery between the keeper and leg slip. That raised India's hopes, but the breakthrough remained elusive. One of the few times the paltry crowd found its voice again was when their favourite, Tendulkar, was brought on to bowl.
With minimal risk, Powell and Bravo collected the singles, hardly hassled by the spinners, who sent down an astonishing 22 overs in the hour after lunch. A maiden century for Powell seemed inevitable, but he was caught behind for 81 off a quicker delivery from Pragyan Ojha, ending a partnership of 160.
Dhoni brought on the fast bowlers to attack the new batsman, Samuels, but though there were a couple of outside edges, Ishant slanted the ball too often into the pads to gift easy runs. Bravo was unflustered as ever, continuing past 150 to have a maiden double-century in his sights. He didn't get there, though, as his innings ended on 166, giving Dhoni a catch while chasing a slightly wide delivery.
That strike sparked a rare period of Indian dominance, with five wickets going down for 48 runs. Aaron and R Ashwin did the damage for India in that spell, during which Samuels unleashed some eye-catching drives to reach his half-century. An awaited declaration didn't come on the day, and neither could India bowl out West Indies, which meant Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir didn't have to bat after spending almost two entire days in the field.