Raina, Harbhajan in rescue act

Raina, Harbhajan in rescue act

Indian batsmen struggle on opening day, Bishoo claims three wickets

Raina, Harbhajan in rescue act

The day began on a rather surprising note when Windies left out Kemar Roach for Fidel Edwards, who has not played a Test for two years. Edwards did bowl quickly to hustle Indian openers M Vijay and debutant Abhinav Mukund. But taking the advantage of hindsight Roach could have done more damage on this pitch, and India, perhaps, wouldn’t have reached 156 for six in 43 overs on the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies on Monday.

But full credit should be given to Bishoo for leaving India in a spot of bother. The 24-year old leg-spinner imparted a lot of flight to his leg-breaks that spun quite a bit, and the Guyanese’s courage to toss the ball up to Indian batsmen was quite remarkable.

His list of victims included high-profile names like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and all of them were guilty of being a tad impatient against Bishoo. Laxman’s attempt to drive Bishoo ended in the hands of Darren Sammy at first slip, and Dravid, a few overs into the post-lunch session, too perished to the same combination in a similar manner.

India’s worries were compounded when Dhoni’s nervous prod off Bishoo was grabbed by Lendl Simmons at short-gully, and at 85 for six the world’s number one Test team was in real danger of folding up for a nothing-score. But the large-hearted Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina put up an impressive rear guard action to save India from total humiliation, adding 71 runs for the unbroken seventh-wicket stand.

The initial damage was done by pacers Ravi Rampaul and Edwards, who produced a tight spell to keep Mukund and Vijay in check. The Indian duo was, understandably, a bit nervous, and never looked in full control of the proceedings. Sensing the opposition batsmen’s obvious discomfort West Indian skipper Sammy straightaway employed four slips and backward point.

The hosts’ new ball pair responded to the field brilliantly, giving no space to the Indians to free their arms, and it required a great deal of composure to wriggle out of that tight corner. Mukund and Vijay know each other well as they have involved in some massive alliances for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy matches.

There were instances when they seemed to emulate their feats in the domestic matches, and Vijay’s drive through mid-off off Rampaul was a treat to watch. But the promise didn’t materialise. Vijay’s effort to clear backward point off Rampaul lacked power and timing as Bishoo held on to a smart catch. It was a mighty test of temperament for Mukund, and the Chennai lad looked a bit dazed.  His stay met with a rather unfortunate end when he dragged Rampaul’s delivery on to his stumps.

The dismissal brought Dravid and Laxman together, and the pair was rock solid for most part of their 34-run partnership. They came behind the line quite beautifully to negate the effect of the slight double bounce. Dravid, especially, was in good nick from the beginning, offering full face of the blade to blunt the pace attack.

The lone moment of worry came when Laxman’s uppish drive off Edwards was grassed by Rampaul at wide mid-on when the batsman was on five, but Bishoo ensured that Laxman wouldn’t carry on for long. There was more joy in store for them as they winkled out Virat Kohli in the last ball before the lunch before Harbhajan and Raina offered firm resistance.

Score Board (45 minutes before tea)
INDIA (I Innings):
Mukund b Rampaul    11
(41b, 1x4)
Vijay c Bishoo b Rampaul    8
(12b, 1x4)
Dravid c Sammy b Bishoo    40
(67b, 7x4)
Laxman c Sammy b Bishoo    12
(31b, 2x4)
Kohli c Baugh b Edwards    4
(10b, 1x4)
Raina (batting)    26
(58b, 5x4)
Dhoni c Simmons b Bishoo    0
Harbhajan (batting)    48
(41b, 9x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-2, NB-4)    7
Total (for 6 wkts, 43 overs)    156
Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Vijay), 2-30 (Mukund), 3-64 (Laxman), 4-69 (Kohli), 5-83 (Dravid), 6-85 (Dhoni).
Bowling: Fidel Edwards 12-1-44-1 (nb-2), Ravi Rampaul 13-2-38-2 (nb-2), Darren Sammy 11-3-27-0, Devendra Bishoo 7-2-44-3.

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