Home side show fight with ball and bat
GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Opener Kraigg Brathwaite was leading a spirited response at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium today, as West Indies reached stumps on the second day of the third Test against India on 107 for 1, after dismissing Virat Kohli’s side for 353.
Brathwaite was unbeaten on 53 having batted for just under two and a half hours and struck six boundaries. The out-of-form Darren Bravo was his companion on 18 in a partnership of 48 after the obdurate Barbadian batsman had added 59 for the first wicket with Leon Johnson before the left-handed Guyanese was needlessly run out for 23 attempting a sharp single.
Earlier, regular thorn in the Windies’ side Ravichandran Ashwin, along with Wriddhiman Saha, forged a superb record 213-run sixth-wicket partnership that saw India recover from 126 for 5 and had put them in a strong position. Once their stand was broken, though, the West Indies ran through India’s lower order as they lost their last four wickets for just two runs.
Before the heap of wickets, which was triggered by Saha’s dismissal, India were in complete control. The pair had denied the West Indies bowlers for the entire morning session. Ashwin was unbeaten on 99 when lunch was taken, and quickly went past the three figure mark with a shimmy down the wicket and a hit for six over long-on.
He continued to bat as beautifully as he did yesterday. The pitch had eased out, but Ashwin’s guard certainly hadn’t. He defended with authority, drove with purpose and flicked the ball into the gaps. With the outfield being a slow, heavy one, Ashwin also showed that he was a willing runner.
He moved to 99 with only his fifth boundary of the innings, a cut off Miguel Cummins that found the third-man fence. Before lunch, the Indian team had assembled at the balcony to applaud Ashwin’s century, they stood there for 28 deliveries in anticipation, but the century never came at that stage.
Saha followed suit soon after, hitting a full toss from off-spinner Roston Chase wide of cover to pick up a couple and get his maiden Test century. It was a truly special knock, helping India overcome a dire situation, and a moment the 31-year-old is likely to have imprinted in his mind forever.
He had scored 46 important runs the previous day, and today he started to impose himself a lot more playing the drive well, flicking the ball into the gaps and lofting the spinners to the boundary. Saha looked to be positive throughout his innings, hitting as many as 13 boundaries during his 227-ball innings. He was mostly vigilant, but pounced on any opportunity to put the bad ball away.
Alzarri Joseph, who has been impressive on his debut, orchestrated the second Indian collapse. The young fast bowler picked up his third wicket of the game, as he had Saha caught behind by Shane Dowrich for 104 with a full delivery that shaped away just enough to take the edge with India’s score at 339.
Pacer Cummins had bowled over 45 overs in Test cricket without getting a wicket. Off his 281st delivery, he had Ravindra Jadeja caught behind for 6. Cummins’s relief was quite apparent, he leapt with joy and punched the air before being mobbed by his teammates.
He finished the innings with three wickets to his name, ending Ashwin’s superb knock at 118 and getting rid of Ishant Sharma for a duck.
West Indies’s new opening pair of Leon Johnson and Kraigg Brathwaite started off on the right footing. They hit the team’s first 50-run opening partnership since December 2014. The pair showed a particular liking for the short ball, happily hanging back and pulling in front of square to get their side off to a decent start. The stand should have ended much earlier when Mohammad Shami had Leon Johnson edging to the slips. KL Rahul, however, put down a tough chance diving to his left. Johnson looked the part, increasing speculation as to which set of geniuses had preferred Rajendra Chandrika to Johnson in the Test XI previously.
Rahul though later redeemed himself with a brilliant piece of skill that had Johnson run-out. Johnson had tapped the ball a little wide of Rahul at mid-wicket and set of for the run, but Rahul was quick to react and threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end with an accurate throw.
Brathwaite went on to bring up his fifty in the last over of the day, hitting Ishant for two fours in the over.