Laxman, Raina fight back

India recover from depths of 38 for four on spiteful surface

Laxman, Raina fight back

And Laxman was in all-too-familiar terrain also, with India in crisis. After being asked to bat, India were tottering at 38 for four, when Laxman was joined by Suresh Raina. As he had done over the years, the Hyderabadi responded with a knock of characteristic flair and determination, taking India to 147 for four at tea on the opening day of the second Test on Tuesday at the Kensington Oval.

Laxman also had a like-minded partner in Raina, raising 109 runs for a highly impressive fifth-wicket stand. At times, the elegance of Laxman can mask his steeliness, and there were numerous exquisite moments like that wristy, whipped flick for four against the turn off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, and couple of drives off Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards.

But the control and determination he displayed to tame a difficult pitch was hard to miss. Raina too was not far behind, combining the natural grace of left-hander and resolve to a nicety as India made a steady recovery.

Pre-lunch carnage

However, it was a totally different scenario when lunch was called. The toss went the way of West Indian skipper Darren Sammy, and without any hesitation he asked India to bat. The visitors left out Munaf Patel, who was widely expected to make it to the final eleven, as the Baroda pacer didn’t recover sufficiently from an elbow inflammation, and Karnataka pacer A Mithun replaced leg-spinner Amit Mishra for this Test.

The West Indian pacers’ effort vindicated talk about the nature of the pitch – quick and bouncy. It’s quite tough to bat on a pitch that is fast and offering generous bounce, and the overcast conditions added swing to the mix to make the life of batsmen perilous.

Rampaul, Edwards and Sammy exploited the conditions to optimum, coming up with spells of genuine pace and nagging accuracy. Rahul Dravid is the batsman best suited in this Indian line-up to counter such conditions, and his start indicated another long vigil like his Sabina Park epic a few days back.

His awareness of the off-stump was exemplary as Rampaul strived in vain to force him to snick one to the wicket-keeper or to one of the slip fielders. But it was Sammy’s ability to find extra bounce which ended Dravid’s stay. He could not take his bat away in time as the cherry brushed his gloves en route to Carlton Baugh behind the stumps. However, the initial signals of a hard day came in the opening minutes of the match when openers Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay struggled to middle the ball. Vijay was all at sea against Edwards and Rampaul, and the bounce and movement they generated.

It was ironical that Mukund departed when Vijay’s end seemed nigh. The young southpaw looked assured during his brief stay, but Rampaul, bowling from the Malcolm Marshall end, jettisoned him with a delivery that would have made the West Indian legend proud. The ball kicked up from just short of length and Mukund received it near his nose, fending to Marlon Samuels at gully.

The hardships only grew on the Indians. Vijay and a rock-solid Laxman seemed to stem the rot with a stubborn third-wicket stand. During that period, Laxman struck the first boundary for India off the 89th ball of the morning. But Vijay soon departed to push the Indians to a corner.

Virat Kohli courted another failure as India stared at wrong end of the barrel, but Laxman and Raina kept India afloat.

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