Indians inch closer to victory

Indians inch closer to victory

Things weren’t quite as straightforward on the third day at the Feroze Shah Kotla, though by Tuesday stumps, there was no doubt which team had its nose slightly in front.

Ravichandran Ashwin was the star act with an outstanding display of versatile off-spin bowling, his brilliant six for 47 returning India to a match in which they had been behind the eight-ball after conceding a 95-run first-innings deficit to the West Indies in the first Test.

The 25-year-old justified the faith of the selectors by becoming only the seventh Indian bowler to take five wickets on debut, primarily responsible for the West Indies being bowled out for 180 in their second essay.

That left India needing 276 to go 1-0 up in the three-Test series, a target intimidating even in isolation but made even more daunting by a surface that had become not just slower, but was beginning to play extremely low as well. India’s batting, under some pressure in recent times, however rose to the occasion manfully, the top four making meaningful contributions as the hosts finished the day on 152 for two. India need a further 124 for victory, which is no mere formality.
After another positive start from Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, the Indians needed the old firm of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar – who completed a whopping 15,000 Test runs! -- to put their heads down and steady the ship. Their third-wicket alliance is already worth 57 (108m, 156b) and India will look to the two stalwarts to take them closer to the target, because new batsmen will invariably find it difficult to get their eye in on this track. Gambhir and the unique Sehwag faced few problems in negotiating Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul, bringing up their second fifty stand of the match before the left-hander was the victim of a marginal leg before call by Rod Tucker. Sehwag blazed away to another half-century but fell for the same score as in the first innings, chopping Darren Sammy on for 55, uniting Dravid and Tendulkar in the middle.

Dravid was a picture of concentration, while Tendulkar blended poise, purpose and patience beautifully. Apart from jerky running towards the end, they were in complete control, unfazed either by pace or the spin of Marlon Samuels and Devendra Bishoo. The demons in the track, if any, seemed to have been emphatically conquered by the seasoned duo, which will retire to bed fully conscious that there still is plenty of work ahead.

There was plenty of work in store when the hosts took the park on a hazy morning. The visitors were 116 to the good with eight wickets standing, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to strike the right balance between attack and staunching the flow of runs. Fortunately for him, Ashwin rose to the challenge splendidly, bowling with the confidence of a virtuoso and the guile of a veteran.

For a debutant, he was unafraid to bring all his variations into play. His control was near exemplary, his line of attack almost always probing and to his field. With Pragyan Ojha not having the best day, Ashwin shouldered the responsibility manfully, at once Dhoni’s stock and shock bowler. Under relentless pressure and armed with a defensive mindset, the West Indies subsided to 84 for seven from their overnight 21 for two, Ashwin moving in for the kill after Umesh Yadav had ended Kirk Edwards’ spirited resistance. Darren Bravo and Samuels were cleaned up in one over, the latter with a clever carrom ball after having been set up with two off-breaks.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, though, continued to baulk the Indians. Batting as if on a different track, the left-hander was again outstanding, leading the fightback in skipper Sammy’s company with an eighth-wicket stand of 40. West Indies replaced hesitancy with positivity and reaped rewards even as India went the other way. Despite Ashwin’s dismissal of Chanderpaul, the tail continued to wag, the last three wickets putting on 96 precious runs.

Could have been decisive, Ashwin’s heroics notwithstanding, had India’s misfiring batting not found some form. At the right time, too!

SCOREBOARD

WEST INDIES (I Innings): 304 all out in 108.2 overs
INDIA (I Innings): 209 all out in 52.5 overs
WEST INDIES (II Innings, O/n: 21/2):
Brathwaite lbw Ojha    2
(38m, 41b)
Powell c Gambhir b Ashwin    0
(5m, 4b)
K Edwards b Yadav    33
(92m, 80b, 4x4)
F Edwards c Dhoni b Ishant    1
(14m, 8b)
Bravo lbw Ashwin    12
(55m, 39b, 1x4)
Chanderpaul lbw Ashwin    47
(79m, 58b, 7x4)
Samuels b Ashwin    0
(2m, 4b)
Baugh c Dhoni b Yadav    7
(35m, 26b)
Sammy b Ashwin    42
(57m, 37b, 5x4, 1x6)
Rampaul c Ojha b Ashwin    18
(53m, 31b, 2x4, 1x6)
Bishoo (not out)    9
(28m, 17b, 1x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-8)    9
Total (all out, 57.3 overs)    180
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Powell), 2-17 (Brathwaite), 3-26 (F Edwards), 4-53 (K Edwards), 5-63 (Bravo), 6-63 (Samuels), 7-84 (Baugh), 8-124 (Chanderpaul), 9-157 (Sammy).
Bowling: Pragyan Ojha 14-4-37-1, Ravichandran Ashwin 21.3-5-47-6, Yuvraj Singh 1-0-2-0, Ishant Sharma 14-2-49-1, Umesh Yadav 7-0-36-2.
INDIA (II Innings):
Gambhir lbw Samuels    22
(47m, 32b, 3x4)
Sehwag b Sammy    55
(80m, 55b, 5x4, 2x6)
Dravid (batting)    30
(140m, 91b, 3x4)
Tendulkar (batting)    33
(108m, 87b, 2x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-10, NB-1)    12
Total (for 2 wkts, 44 overs)    152
Fall of wickets: 1-51 (Gambhir), 2-95 (Sehwag).
Bowling: Fidel Edwards 9-2-32-0, Ravi Rampaul 8-0-19-0 (nb-1), Darren Sammy 9-0-32-1, Marlon Samuels 7-0-28-1, Devendra Bishoo 11-1-30-0.

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