Windies get the better of 17-wicket day

Carlton Baugh did sensational work behind the stumps; Darren Sammy, the captain who has to keep justifying his place in the side every time he walks out, took three wickets and had a hand in two others; and the other bowlers chipped in with timely breakthroughs to bowl India out for their lowest total at home in three-and-a-half years.

The 95-run lead they secured in the first innings could prove to be match-winning on a slow and low track where scoring runs remains a struggle. West Indies learned that when they lost five wickets for 48 runs in the morning session, and two for 21 in the evening. They would have wondered what the fuss over the pitch was all about when Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir all but blew them away. Then came two freak dismissals, an opening that their bowlers burst through.

There was no bursting through by the Indian bowlers in the morning. They tried honestly with stump-to-stump lines and restrictive fields. That five of the seven wickets they took today fell lbw spoke of India’s accuracy, and that none of the 11 wickets to spin came through exploding deliveries and bat-pad catches pointed at the hard work required.

Sensational as 5 for 48 in the morning might sound, nothing happened for the first seven overs. They had to turn to the spin of Pragyan Ojha, who bowled straight, and trapped Baugh and Sammy in his first two overs of the day. That brought Ojha his first Test five-for.

Overnight centurion Shivnarine Chanderpaul could add only seven before an Ishant Sharma delivery stayed low and he was given lbw. Chanderpaul could be unhappy with two men at the other end: Ravi Rampaul, who had declined an easy single last ball, and the umpire Kumar Dharmasena, because the wide angle from round the stumps could have carried the ball down leg.

The rest fell soon enough, in stark contrast to how much West Indies had to struggle for their first wicket. Fidel Edwards must have walked under a ladder when coming to the ground: in his first three overs he produced two edges that didn’t carry, one that was dropped, and bowled Sehwag off a no-ball. The Indian openers never thought of caution despite all that, and kept hitting boundaries, 10 between them.

While the batsmen’s skill at livening up the game on a dull track shone through, it was also possible because West Indies were prepared to attack much more than India did. Perhaps the build-up of their attack didn’t allow them the line-and-length business. Often Edwards and Ravi Rampaul bowled without either mid-off or mid-on, they pitched it up regularly, and the openers kept attacking.

The reward came unexpectedly, though, when a Sehwag straight drive ran Gambhir out. You could say luck had evened out, you could also say Gambhir held the bat in the wrong hand, which cost him some distance as he tried to make it back after having backed up. Three overs later Baugh made a good collection down the leg side. Sehwag had tried a vertical-sweep, and even though his back foot never left the crease, Baugh knew Sehwag would have to move it to resist backward momentum. He waited, he saw Sehwag lift it momentarily, and stumped him. The thought-processing happened in about two seconds.

Just as fast, it seemed, Sammy called back Edwards, who had gone for 49 in his five overs. Edwards responded by trapping Sachin Tendulkar with a skidder that moved in, a typical mode of dismissal on this track. Soon Baugh took a low catch off Devendra Bishoo to send VVS Laxman back.

Yuvraj Singh counterattacked, added 32 with Dravid, but immediately after tea drove Sammy straight to short cover. With half the side gone, and half of West Indies’ total achieved, in walked India’s captain. Four balls later, he walked back, having missed a straight delivery. Two runs later, Baugh was into the game again, catching a healthy leg-side edge when standing up to Sammy, sending back Ashwin.

Dravid and Ishant Sharma added 49 for the eighth wicket, Dravid reaching his sixth fifty-plus score past his 38th birthday. But West Indies’ success lay in how, unlike four of those six efforts, Dravid couldn’t convert this into three figures. Before Dravid was hurried into a pull off Rampaul, though, it was Marlon Samuels who broke through with Ishant’s wicket. Rampaul followed up Dravid’s wicket with a golden duck for Umesh Yadav.

The duck-hunt didn’t end. The West Indies top order repeated the mistake from the first innings, allowing the spinners, who opened the innings, to bowl wherever they wanted to bowl. Kieran Powell fell for a duck, and Kraigg Brathwaite pushed down the wrong line just before stumps, making it 17 wickets for the day, setting up a delicious finish to the match.

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