India recover after early Windies inroads
GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha combined for a century partnership and steered India out of a perilous position on the opening day of the third Test against the West Indies at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium Tuesday.
India looked in danger of being bowled out cheaply after slumping to 126 for five having been sent into bat, with teenage paceman Alzarri Joseph claiming the prize wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma on his West Indies debut.
However, India recovered to 234 for five at the close thanks to a superb unbroken 108-run partnership between Ashwin and Saha.
Ashwin finished the day unbeaten on 75 off 190 balls with Saha having made 46 not out off 122 deliveries. Ashwin has taken a liking to West Indies’ bowling and has already scored a century in the series to add to two previous tons. The home side would have been contemplating this at the end of the day’s play.
Both players enjoyed a late flurry of boundaries against the new ball, having earlier blunted the home attack with a defiant safety-first approach that was much needed after the Windies had blown through India’s top order.
It took the hosts, who trail 1-0 in the four-match series, just 15 balls to make their first breakthrough after winning the toss, with Shikhar Dhawan edging a short delivery from Shannon Gabriel down the leg side to depart for one.
That brought captain Kohli to the crease but he was only able to contribute three runs before becoming 19-year-old Joseph’s first international wicket, the India captain fending a short pacy delivery straight to Darren Bravo at slip.
India tried to steady the ship with Lokesh Rahul and the recalled Sharma putting on 58 for the third wicket but opener Rahul – scenting a fourth century in his seventh Test appearance – fell immediately after reaching 50 when he chipped off-spinner Roston Chase to Kraigg Brathwaite at short fine leg.
That left India on 87 for three at lunch, and they lost Sharma (nine) without any addition to the score in the afternoon session when he edged Joseph behind to Shane Dowrich. Joseph had probed outside the off-stump to the Indian batsmen and had beaten them on several occasions with away movement.
India lost their fifth wicket just before tea when Ajinkya Rahane was bowled by Chase for 35. Rahane had looked accomplished at the crease but attempted to hit across the line at a full delivery which dipped on him and pegged back his stumps. But Ashwin – who was caught off a Gabriel no-ball – and wicketkeeper Saha stemmed the flow of wickets before launching a fight-back.
Earlier after tea Ashwin and Saha had shown great resolve. Because of the slow outfield West Indies could have a stacked field. Chase often bowled with a six-three leg-side field, leaving point open and bowling into the pads. Any scoring was now fraught with risk, and if he dropped the ball short the slow outfield cost him just the one run. India were in no state to take risks so the two batsmen put their head down, and kept picking whatever singles or twos were on offer. Later their patience paid off as they ended the day playing freely against a new ball being bowled by pacers at the end of a tiring, sun-drenched day.
Joseph caught the eye not only with his pace but his accuracy and ability to hustle the batsman. He ended the day with figures of 2 for 38 from 14 overs while Chase also had 2 for 38 from 23 overs. Fast bowler Miguel Cummins had a few bright moments but was the least threatening of the four-man pace attack, guilty too often of spraying the ball down the leg-side.
At the start of the day India omitted pacer Umesh Yadav, leg-spinner Amit Mishra and surprisingly, middle-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara. Along with Sharma, they included all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.