Ashwin sparkles with ton after Tendulkar shock

Visitors gain lead but India safe

Ashwin sparkles with ton after Tendulkar shock

Looking a million dollars, Sachin Tendulkar closed in on his 100th international century in front of an awestruck audience with a succession of blazing strokes before Darren Sammy, true to his word, broke Indian hearts.

The West Indian captain latched on to a sharp chance at second slip, induced by the extra bounce procured by Ravi Rampaul, to cruelly cut short Tendulkar’s progress towards three figures and deafen the Wankhede stadium with the sound of silence. Dismissed in the 90s for a tenth time in Tests, Tendulkar’s disappointment was palpable.

The fourth day of the final India-West Indies Test was meant to be all about Tendulkar. Instead, it was Ravichandran Ashwin who made it special, continuing a fairytale start to his Test career by producing a remarkable maiden century and becoming only the third Indian after Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar to take five wickets in an innings and score a ton in the same Test.

Riding on Ashwin’s extraordinary 103 (180m, 118b, 15x4, 2x6), India posted 482 in their first innings in reply to the Caribbeans’ 590. West Indies extended their lead of 108 to 189 by stumps, crawling to 81 for two in their second essay and making a draw the most likely result on Saturday.

India were in some strife when the 25-year-old off-spinner – some might say all-rounder in the making – strode out purposefully. Armed with the second new ball, Fidel Edwards, Rampaul and Sammy struck once apiece inside the first 70 minutes as India stumbled from 281 for three at the start to 331 for six, still 60 short of making the West Indies bat again.

There was pressure alright, but if Ashwin felt it, he did a brilliant job of masking it. With comeback man Virat Kohli a relatively passive admirer occupying the best seat in the stadium, Ashwin slipped into overdrive straightaway, timing the ball beautifully and finding the gaps with the practised ease of a virtuoso to pepper the boundary in the ‘V’.

The West Indies might initially have thought the onslaught was too good to last, but Ashwin quickly shattered that belief with common sense and immense self-belief, putting the pitch, the bowling and the conditions in perspective. India had lost VVS Laxman – to his first delivery of the day – as well as Tendulkar and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to loose strokes, not because there was any great venom in the bowling. Alongside the impressive Kohli, Ashwin restored the domination of the bat, playing with a freedom that was at once refreshing and exhilarating.

Freespirit

Whereas Ashwin could afford to be a freespirit, Kohli must have felt the pressure on his comeback after missing the last six Tests. He didn’t, however, look out of place, handling the short stuff with aplomb, going from second fiddle alongside Tendulkar and Dhoni to lead partner in less than half an hour with no difficulty, and generally acquitting himself superbly during a crucial knock, both from his own and the team’s perspective.

Their stand of 97 (93m, 148b) tugged India to the shores of safety, and while Kohli perished to his first poor stroke, Ashwin kept battering the West Indians. 58 when Kohi holed out, Ashwin raced through the 60s and the 70s, but had reached only 84 when last man Pragyan Ojha – who accounted for both West Indian second innings wickets – walked out.

For 24 nervy, yet nerveless minutes, Ashwin played the game of cat-and-mouse beautifully, eventually dabbing Rampaul to third man for his 15th four which brought the dressing room to its feet.

Rampaul had till then been the villain of the piece, cutting short Tendulkar in his prime.

The little man had begun gloriously with a whip through square-leg and a punch past the bowler, both off Rampaul, and an off-drive for four followed by an upper cut off Edwards for six powered him into the 90s.

A hundred appeared no more than a formality until he drove at Rampaul on the up, the extra bounce kissing the outside edge on its way to Sammy’s safe hands. It was the moment no one wanted; by the evening, Ashwin had almost made up for that disappointment.

Score Board

WEST INDIES (I Innings): 590 all out in 184.1 overs
INDIA (I Innings, O/n: 281/3):
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 c Sammy b Rampaul    94
(219m, 153b, 8x4, 2x6)
Laxman c Samuels b F Edwards    32
(83m, 54b, 3x4)
Kohli c F Edwards b Bishoo     52
(155m, 111b, 5x4)
Dhoni b Sammy    8
(29m, 21b, 1x4)
Ashwin c Barath b Rampaul    103
(180m, 118b, 15x4, 2x6)
Ishant c Bravo b Samuels     5
(44m, 36b)
Aaron b Samuels     4
(16m, 14b, 1x4)
Ojha (not out)     0
(24m, 14b)
Extras (B-1, W-4, NB-5)    10
Total (all out, 135.4 overs)    482
Fall of wickets: 1-67 (Sehwag), 2-138 (Gambhir), 3-224 (Dravid), 4-287 (Laxman), 5-322 (Tendulkar), 6-331 (Dhoni),7-428 (Kohli), 8-455 (Ishant), 9-463 (Aaron).
Bowling: F Edwards 28-4-116-1 (nb-5), Rampaul 24.4-3-95-3 (w-2), Sammy 26-3-90-2 (w-2), Samuels 17-0-74-3, Bishoo 40-6-106-1.
WEST INDIES (II Innings):
Barath c Laxman b Ojha    3
(20m, 10b)
Brathwaite (batting)    34
(128m, 102b, 2x4)
K Edwards st Dhoni b Ojha    17
(26m, 24b, 3x4)
Bravo (batting)    27
(82m, 68b, 2x4)
Total (for 2 wkts, 34 overs)    81
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Barath), 2-30 (K Edwards).
Bowling: Pragyan Ojha 15-2-27-2, Ishant Sharma 5-2-12-0, Varun Aaron3-0-14-0, R Ashwin 8-0-20-0, Virender Sehwag 2-0-3-0, Sachin Tendulkar 1-0-5-0.

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