West Indies feel Indian heat

Cricket Third Test
Last Updated 24 November 2011, 17:39 IST

Gautam Gambhir must have felt like the loneliest man in the planet on Thursday afternoon.

No sooner had he he been short-shrifted by Bruce Oxenford than the biggest crowd of the Test series erupted in uninhibited delirium, the buzz of the morning reaching a crescendo.

It wasn’t in celebration of the feisty Gambhir’s stylish half-century; instead, it was in anticipation of the arrival at the crease of Sachin Tendulkar.

The third day of the final Test at the Wankhede stadium was all about the little big man of Indian cricket. The 20,000 fans at the venue sensed the moment was nigh, the West Indians seemed to believe they were destined to be a part of history.

That feeling gathered momentum throughout the Mumbaikar’s three-hour vigil, at the end of which he had moved to within 33 runs of an unprecedented 100th international century when bad light put a slightly early end to the suspense.

Virender Sehwag wowed the crowd, briefly, with another unfettered cameo, Gambhir kept them in good humour and Rahul Dravid (82, 195m, 149b, 11x4) brought them to their feet with a glorious knock during which he crossed 13,000 Test runs – and completed 1,000 Test runs in 2011 -- but no one was in any doubt who charmed and thrilled and mesmerised the audience.

That the West Indies made 590 in their first innings, R Ashwin picked up his second five-for in only his third Test, and that India closed day three on 281 for three, were almost incidental. The focus when play begins on Friday morning will not be the 110 more India need to avoid the follow-on, but the 33 Tendulkar requires to touch three-figures.

Tendulkar was the obvious cynosure of another bat-dominated day as not even natural wear and tear made a dent on the beautiful batting deck. Batsman after batsman gorged himself, each effort praiseworthy because each one made light of spending more than 12 hours on the park in enervating conditions.

It took India just quarter of an hour in the morning to end the West Indian innings, which resumed on 575 for nine, Ashwin defeating Devendra Bishoo’s slog-sweep to finish with a fully deserved five-wicket haul. Immediately, Sehwag stamped his authority with telling blows, none more so than a contemptuous shimmy and drive over cover off Darren Sammy that had disdain and arrogance written all over it.

Sammy, though, had the last laugh, dismissing Sehwag – for the third time in four innings -- bowled through the gate with a duck-backer to end a fourth successive half-century opening stand. Dravid was edgy in the 20-minute period to lunch, but once he drove Fidel Edwards wide of mid-on off the first delivery on resumption, he was in sensational touch.

Gambhir flitted between the watchful and the adventurous, making capital of being let of on 31 at slip by Kirk Edwards off Sammy and piecing together 71 (91m, 118b) with the increasingly fluent Dravid when umpire Oxenford ruled him caught behind, trying to pull Ravi Rampaul, even though there was no contact between bat and ball. As Gambhir walked off distraught, Tendulkar calmly donned his helmet and strode in, the weight of expectations magnified by the noise and the chants.

It’s great credit to the two veterans that Dravid and Tendulkar remained unaffected by the mayhem around them. At 138 for two, India were way behind the eight-ball; the two right-handers batted without even a hint of trouble, the lone moment of drama coming off the last delivery before tea when numerous pre-match football sessions finally paid off with Dravid, then 52, kicking a stump-bound ball off Bishoo away with great nimbleness and balance.

Post tea, the duo matched each other stroke for stroke, Tendulkar’s outrageous upper cut off Edwards for six matched by the dexterity of Dravid’s repeated driving. The Bangalorean seemed set for his sixth ton of the year when a rare lapse in concentration proved his undoing, a lazy cut off Marlon Samuels defeated by the ball keeping its date with the off-stump.

Tendulkar ought to have been dismissed for 58, but Carlton Baugh behind the stumps spilled a regulation offering when the batsman tried to glide Bishoo. Thankful for the fresh lease of life, he knuckled down in VVS Laxman’s company, and will walk out in front of a capacity crowd on the morrow for another shot at history.

Score Board

WEST INDIES (I Innings, O/n: 575/9):

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
(24m, 6b)
Rampaul c Kohli b Ashwin    10
(22m, 14b, 2x4)
F Edwards (not out)    11
(42m, 27b, 1x4)
Bishoo b Ashwin    12
(31m, 21b, 2x4)

Extras (B-8, LB-16, NB-2)    26

Total (all out, 184.1 overs)    590

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 32-9-84-1 (nb-1), Aaron 28-4-106-3, Ojha 48-10-126-1, Ashwin 52.1-6-156-5, Sehwag 16-1-61-0 (nb-1), Kohli 2-0-9-0, Tendulkar 6-0-24-0.

INDIA (I Innings):

Gambhir c Baugh b Rampaul    55
(166m, 99b, 8x4)
Sehwag b Sammy    37
(74m, 50b, 3x4, 1x6)
Dravid b Samuels    82
(195m, 149b, 11x4)
Tendulkar (batting)    67
(180m, 133b, 5x4, 1x6)
Laxman (batting)    32
(76m, 53b, 3x4)

Extras (B-1, W-3, NB-4)    8

Total (for 3 wkts, 80 overs)    281

Fall of wickets: 1-67 (Sehwag), 2-138 (Gambhir), 3-224 (Dravid).

Bowling: F Edwards 15-0-70-0 (nb-4), Rampaul 12-1-42-1 (w-1), Sammy 22-3-67-1 (w-2), Samuels 11-0-48-1, Bishoo 20-4-53-0.

(Published 24 November 2011, 04:40 IST)

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