With Darren Bravo again in the forefront, the West Indies buried India under an avalanche of runs in the final Test, only a post-tea stutter preventing the second day of the game too from being as remarkably one-sided as the first one had been.
The stylish left-hander, a chip of the Brian Lara block, made his second century in as many innings, his massive 166 (403m, 284b, 17x4) the rock around which the Caribbeans constructed a most magnificent edifice.
There were no signs of the timidity that had undermined them in the first innings in Kolkata, the West Indians batting with an admirably judicious mix of careful consideration and sparkling strokeplay to reach 575 for nine at stumps on day two.
Bravo might not entirely welcome comparisons with his illustrious cousin, but it’s a comparison he had better get used to, especially considering he has perfected every Lara mannerism. There is, though, more to the left-hander than just Lara’s mannerisms; he seems to have imbibed the legend’s appetite for runs as well, as evidenced by a third brilliant hundred in his last four Tests.
As much as Bravo dominated the proceedings, Wednesday was not just about him. Kieran Powell served notice with a marvellously free-flowing half-century and Marlon Samuels again relished the Indian bowling as for only the fifth time in Test history, the top six of a single batting line-up all topped the half-century mark. What made the West Indian effort even more commendable was that there was no steadying influence of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, nor was there any sense of satisfaction or complacency even when individual milestones were stacked up.
India’s bowlers, their efforts negated by the docile surface but their spirit unyielding, kept at it all day long on another hot afternoon, the fast bowlers bending their backs and showing as much energy at the close as they had at the beginning, and the spinners working overtime despite finding little purchase. Debutant Varun Aaron’s perseverance finally bore fruit in the period after tea when, in his third spell of the day, he picked up three wickets, while R Ashwin was rewarded for a big heart and oodles of determination with figures of four for 154, giving him 17 wickets to date in his debut series.
Having begun the day strongly placed at 267 for two, Bravo did the early running, driving the first two deliveries off Aaron down the ground for exquisite boundaries. Kirk Edwards was only marginally less fluent, and looked well on course for a third Test ton of his own when Ishant Sharma, finally, procured an outer edge for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to complete the formalities.
That ended a stand of 164 (190m, 269b) for the third wicket, but that was all the joy India had for the next two and a half hours as Powell and Bravo put on quite an exhibition. Only playing because Chanderpaul was unavailable, the left-handed Powell began in blazing fashion, showing nimble footwork against the spinners and driving the pacers handsomely down the ground to unleash a series of boundaries.
With three-figures beckoning, Bravo embraced circumspection, but Powell’s flamboyance meant the bowlers could impose no pressure. The hundred brought up with a peach of a square drive off Ashwin, Bravo went back to his positive ways while Powell reined in his aggression somewhat, the two complementing each other beautifully and driving India to frustration.
A second straight giant partnership, this time worth 160 (147m, 279b) was finally halted by Pragyan Ojha’s left-arm spin when Dhoni held on to the third of his five catches. Bravo and Samuels then extended India’s misery until, in one excellent burst after tea, Aaron showed what he is capable of.
The Jharkhand youngster picked up three wickets in four overs, including Bravo to a loose, tired stroke outside off, and should have had Samuels too had Dhoni not put down a reasonably straightforward chance, to trigger a mini-collapse. A smart catch at silly-point by Virat Kohli ended Ashwin’s drought for the day, and his carrom ball accounted for Samuels as India redressed the balance somewhat with five wickets in the final session.
WEST INDIES (I Innings, O/n: 267/2):
Barath c Dhoni b Ashwin 62
(213m, 148b, 8x4)
Brathwaite c Kohli b Ashwin 68
(231m, 184b, 8x4)
K Edwards c Dhoni b Ishant 86
(208m, 165b, 13x4)
Bravo c Dhoni b Aaron 166
(403m, 284b, 17x4)
Powell c Dhoni b Ojha 81
(147m, 149b, 9x4)
Samuels c Dravid b Ashwin 61
(133m, 103b, 9x4)
Baugh b Aaron 4
(9m, 6b, 1x4)
Sammy c Dhoni b Aaron 3
Rampaul c Kohli b Ashwin 10
(22m, 14b, 2x4)
F Edwards (batting) 7
(26m, 22b, 1x4)
Bishoo (batting) 2
Extras (B-8, LB-15, NB-2) 25
Total (for 9 wkts, 181 overs) 575
Fall of wickets: 1-137 (Barath), 2-150 (Brathwaite), 3-314 (K Edwards), 4-474 (Powell), 5-518 (Bravo), 6-524 (Baugh), 7-540 (Sammy), 8-563 (Rampaul), 9-566 (Samuels).
Bowling: Ishant 30-9-72-1 (nb-1), Aaron 28-4-106-3, Ojha 48-10-126-1, Ashwin 51-6-154-4, Sehwag 16-1-61-0 (nb-1), Kohli 2-0-9-0, Tendulkar 6-0-24-0.