West Indies seize initiative

West Indies seize initiative

Having topped 300 just once in their last seven Tests in the Caribbean and England combined, India’s batsmen were expected to rediscover scoring ways on surfaces on which they have learnt the ropes.

At the Feroze Shah Kotla on an action-packed Monday, India refused to buck the trend, putting in another inept display to find themselves with their backs firmly against the wall in the first Test against the West Indies. Day two saw 17 wickets go down for 278 runs in 84.1 overs, though the pitch was far from diabolical, even if the ball continued to stay down more and more.

Bowled out for 209 in response to the visitors’ 304, India did regain a bit of ground by reducing the West Indies to 21 for two in their second essay. Even so, Darren Sammy’s men extended their first-innings advantage of 95 to 116, daring India to bat out of their skins if they are to keep a proud home record intact.

Home advantage counted for precious little on Monday as India keeled over once the aggressive opening salvo of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag had been separated. The two Delhi lads had built on the good work of the bowlers in the morning – Pragyan Ojha finished with a deserved six-wicket haul – when the West Indies couldn’t add substantially to their overnighttally of 256 for five, but once Gambhir was unfortunately run out backing up after a rousing stand of 89 (64m, 76b), India found extraordinary ways of courting disaster.

Bizarre passage
During a completely bizarre passage of play either side of tea, India lost seven for 65 to stumble to 154 for seven, requiring perennial crisis man Rahul Dravid to keep them in the hunt. The classy number three ploughed on resolutely, like he has done all summer, but the versatility and discipline of the West Indian bowling, the brilliance of stumper Carlton Baugh and India’s own injudicious shot-selection all combined to give the visitors what could easily be the decisive edge.

The imperious Sehwag and the effervescent Gambhir rode their luck in the short period before lunch, particularly tested by the fiery Fidel Edwards. After Gambhir was dropped low at third slip by the other Edwards, Kirk, Sehwag survived a run out chance, was bowled off a no-ball and slashed one perilously close to point, all in the last over before lunch.

After the interval, the two settled down and played with greater authority, looking on course to setting a fantastic platform when Darren Sammy deflected a straight drive on to the stumps to catch Gambhir short. Sehwag was brilliantly stumped down the leg-side by a vigilant Baugh in leggie Devendra Bishoo’s first over, Sachin Tendulkar shuffled far too across and was trapped in front by Edwards, and VVS Laxman tamely poked at the leggie as the cream of the Indian batting was lopped off.

Yuvraj Singh threatened briefly, but in the space of 11 deliveries, the much-maligned Sammy fired out the left-hander, his opposite number Mahendra Singh Dhoni and R Ashwin, the last-named to an outstanding leg-side catch by Baugh. A goodly crowd watched in stunned silence as India lost their way, the slide only temporarily halted by the industrious Dravid and Ishant Sharma during their 49-run eighth-wicket alliance.

India ended the day the way they began it, with success for the bowlers, but the middle period of play will come back to haunt them.

And to think that the day had begun so well! Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Baugh extended their association by another 37 minutes, taking their partnership to 69 (99m, 130b) when Ojha defeated the wicket-keeper’s slog-sweep. In the next over, he trapped Sammy with an arm ball to complete his first five-for in Test cricket, just reward for excellent control and great perseverance.

Ishant finally ended Chanderpaul’s staunch resistance and the tail was mopped up rapidly as India moved into the ascendancy. Or so it appeared then. Subsequent events have left the recently dethroned world number ones with a mini mountain to climb at this point.

SCOREBOARD

WEST INDIES (I Innings, O/n: 256/5):
Chanderpaul lbw Ishant    118
(286m, 196b, 7x4, 2x6)
Baugh lbw Ojha    27
(99m, 71b, 3x4)
Sammy lbw Ojha    5
(8m, 4b, 1x4)
Rampaul lbw Ashwin    12
(31m, 21b, 2x4)
Edwards c Sehwag b Ojha    10
(31m, 21b, 2x4)
Bishoo (not out)    0
(4m, 3b)
Extras (B-4, LB-8, NB-1)    13
Total (all out, 108.2 overs)    304
Fall of wickets: 6-269 (Baugh), 7-281 (Sammy), 8-281 (Chanderpaul), 9-304 (Rampaul).
Bowling: Ishant 25-5-80-1 (nb-1), Yadav 19-5-52-0, Ojha 34.2-9-72-6, Ashwin 27-4-81-3, Sehwag 2-0-5-0, Yuvraj 1-0-2-0.
INDIA (I Innings):
Gambhir (run out)    41
(64m, 41b, 7x4)
Sehwag st Baugh b Bishoo    55
(81m, 46b, 9x4)
Dravid c Sammy b Rampaul    54
(182m, 111b, 3x4)
Tendulkar lbw F Edwards    7
(25m, 18b, 1x4)
Laxman c Baugh b Bishoo    1
(9m, 5b)
Yuvraj c K Edwards b Sammy    23
(35m, 39b, 2x4, 2x6)
Dhoni b Sammy    0
(3m, 4b)
Ashwin c Baugh b Sammy    0
(9m, 6b)
Ishant c Baugh b Samuels    17
(62m, 41b, 2x4)
Ojha (not out)    3
(16m, 7b)
Yadav b Rampaul    0
(1m, 1b)
Extras (B-5, W-1, NB-2)    8
Total (all out, 52.5 overs)    209
Fall of wickets: 1-89 (Gambhir), 2-100 (Sehwag), 3-113 (Tendulkar), 4-120 (Laxman), 5-152 (Yuvraj), 6-152 (Dhoni), 7-154 (Ashwin), 8-203 (Ishant), 9-209 (Dravid).
Bowling: F Edwards 11-1-57-1 (w-1, nb-1), Rampaul 14.5-2-44-2 (nb-1), Sammy 8-1-35-3, Bishoo 14-0-55-2, Samuels 5-0-13-1.
WEST INDIES (II Innings):
Brathwaite lbw Ojha    2
(38m, 41b)
Powell c Gambhir b Ashwin    0
(5m, 4b)
K Edwards (batting)    15
(37m, 34b, 1x4)
F Edwards (batting)    0
(4m, 5b)
Extras (LB-4)    4
Total (for 2 wkts, 14 overs)    21
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Powell), 2-17 (Brathwaite).
Bowling: Ojha 7-3-7-1, Ashwin 6-3-8-1, Yuvraj 1-0-2-0.

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