West Indies struggling against India
On a slow pitch where it looked difficult to dismiss batsmen who didn’t play shots, Mohammed Shami bowled with menace to take four wickets after which Umesh Yadav chipped in with a four-for of his own to make West Indies follow on 323 runs behind. In the follow-on, the other quick, Ishant Sharma got rid of Kraigg Brathwaite, a man known for quiet defiance who denied India for 218 balls in the first innings, in the first over.
The time away from the game was well spent from the looks of it. In his last Test series, Shami was guilty of offering leg-side runs when asked to bowl long spells. The coaches identified long strides in his run-up as the problem, a result of a huge workload in his first year with the Indian team.
Shami came back with shorter strides, stayed at the batsmen for longer, provided fewer freebies, and took out the heart of the West Indies batting. A word of caution, though: West Indies, not the best going around, contributed to their dismissals.
Brathwaite didn’t. From the time he and nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo frustrated India for 16 overs, it was clear the bowlers would have to work hard. Patience, the buzzword leading into the series, was tested. A measure of the difficulty in taking 20 wickets was how both wickets in the first session came through injudicious shots. It was a period when West Indies didn’t look for runs, which made it difficult for wickets to come.
The resistance was led by Brathwaite, who rode his luck a little at the start of the day. With a forward and backward short leg in play, he failed to keep the balls angled into his ribs down on at least three occasions, but managed to avoid the fielders. His partner Bishoo’s outside edge was beaten at least seven times. It would have frustrated India even further considering Bishoo faced only 15 balls in the first eight overs of the morning.
The early jitters out of the way, Brathwaite did what he is known for. Bowling outside off to him, if not a long half-volley, was a waste of energy. At the other end, though, India began to make inroads. Amit Mishra, introduced ahead of R Ashwin, provided the first breakthrough when Bishoo played an impatient sweep shot and dragged his foot over to be stumped. Just before lunch, Kohli sensed an opportunity and went back to Shami, who had been desperately unlucky in his first spell of 6-1-16-0.
Shami glided in and remained threatening even if the batsmen were patient. Darren Bravo wasn’t even patient. When India were getting restless, he calmed them down by flirting with a wide delivery five minutes before lunch. The ball did bounce more than expected to take the edge, but Bravo had played with an angled bat with his feet stuck on the leg stump.
On the way back for lunch, Kohli was heard telling his bowlers, “This is the reward for patience.” More reward was to follow in the second session. Marlon Samuels, who might be playing his last Test series, is not a proactive batsman. He likes to sit back on the back foot, and lets bowlers bowl where they want. Shami did so and in the fifth over after the break, he bowled an in-between length, which dragged Samuels forward even though his weight was back. The ball held its line to take the edge. An aggressive short ball took the shoulder of Jermaine Blackwood’s bat to end a double-wicket maiden. This was the first dismissal that didn’t include wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
From 92 for 5, Brathwaite and debutant Roston Chase resisted for more than 16 overs. They were undone by a man often guilty of not using the crease and also offering freebies on the pads, Yadav. While he did offer freebies here too, especially in the first session, he showed a clear intent of using different angles to make the batsmen play at balls they would otherwise leave. The reward came unconventionally.
Chase pulled an inviting short ball straight to short midwicket followed by a brute to Brathwaite, who on 74 didn’t look like he was going to make a mistake. Yadav went wide on the crease, angled a bouncer in, got Brathwaite to throw his gloves in front of his face.
Playing his first Test as a specialist wicketkeeper, Shane Dowrich scored his second Test half-century, an unbeaten 57, to hold India off in the final session of the day, but didn’t cause enough damage to prevent a follow-on.
Yadav had taken Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite out in successive balls to seemingly end India’s frustrating experience with the tail. Holder edged a wide outswinger to give Saha a record-equalling sixth dismissal for an Indian wicketkeeper, and Brathwaite pre-meditated a leave to be bowled. Dowrich, though, annoyed India a little more in partnership with No. 11 Shannon Gabriel, who lasted two balls once the legspin of Mishra was introduced.
With only 90.2 overs bowled in the first innings, with a possible 13 overs to go before a full night’s rest and with five bowlers in his side, Kohli enforced the first follow-on for India since late 2012 against England in Ahmedabad. Ishant provided instant pay-off with an inswinger that trapped Brathwaite in front, but Bravo and Rajendra Chandrika prevented further damage.