Over the years, several batsmen have feasted on the Indian bowling, but few have done it with such monotonous regularity as Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The little Guyanese continued to gorge on his favourite side with a classy century on day one of the first Test, his 24thTest hundred the cornerstone of the Caribbeans’ impressive 256 for five atstumps on Sunday.
Synonymous with stonew-alling and occupation of the crease, the 37-year-old batted with refreshing freedom and no little authority on a sluggish pitch that was a poor advertisement for Test cricket. Chanderpaul’s seventh hundred – only Sir Garfield Sobers and Viv Richards have more tons against India – soured a promising start for the home side, which will also fret over the fact that it still has to knock over the left-hander when play resumes on Monday.
Chanderpaul (111 batting, 236m, 167b, 7x4,2x6) was the lead actor on an attritional day, but there were other men too who caught the eye. Ravichandran Ashwin impressed on debut, Pragyan Ojha was consistently probing in one of his better spells for India, and a youngster who perhaps doesn’t even fit in the ‘men’ category threw up hints that he could have a long career ahead of him.
Kraigg Brathwaite is all of 18, but he played with a maturity way above his age in the company of the man he idolises to haul the West Indies out of a hole. The right-handed opener is slightly built and therefore limited in his strokeplay, but the under-19 skipper displayed tremendous temperament and determination during his four-and-a-half-hour essay.
The West Indies desperately needed that fourth-wicket stand of 108 (138m, 222b) after having slipped to 72 for three in the first over after lunch. The advantage derived by Darren Sammy winning an important toss on a track that will deteriorate in the next couple of days had been casually tossed away as one batsman after another threw away reasonable starts, but the stodgy Brathwaite and the surprisingly positive Chanderpaul restored the balance in their own different ways.
Chanderpaul was fluent from the off, playing crisply off his pads, punishing any shortness in length by adroitly using the depth of the crease, and skipping down the track when Ojha and Ashwin gave the ball air. Two monster sixes, one off each spinner and both struck overlong-on, indicated that Chanderpaul wasn’t going to be playing the waiting game alone.
Brathwaite liberally used the dab to third-man as his most productive scoring option, capitalising on the width offered by the largely pedestrian new-ball attack of Ishant Sharma and UmeshYadav. However, the teenager needs to work a lot more on his spin-play, because he had difficulty rotating the strike against Ojha and Ashwin, who will look back on his first day in Test cricket with no little fondness.
There was a touch of fortune about his first wicket, Darren Bravo trying to manufacture a cut to a ball pitched on the stumps and having his furniture rearranged, but luck had no role to play in his dismissal of Marlon Samuels. A brilliant floater skidded through on pitching and opened up the right-hander, the resultant edge safely pouched by MahendraSingh Dhoni. That made the captain the first Indian stumper to account for 200 Test dismissals. If there was one thing Ashwin was guilty of, it was perhaps over-experimentation. Ojha, on the other hand, stuck to his game plan, bowling with control and using the arm ball only occasionally. A beautiful delivery that turned just that bit to defeat the left-handed Kieran Powell’s prod brought him his first wicket, but the scalp of Brathwaite, drawn forward by the flight and lured by the dip to set up a smart stumping for Dhoni, was the dismissal of the day.
Ishant and Yadav were extremely patchy, and must lift themselves with the second new ball if they are to quickly terminate the sixth-wicket stand worth 56 (62m, 82b) between Chanderpaul and Carlton Baugh.