West Indies V India: Test 1, Day 1

 

There was a time when the crowd at Sabina Park, Kingston used to bay for blood and they were pretty open in their hostility to the opposition batsmen and love for the bowlers. Now the pitch has cracks that would support the spinners as the match wears on. Though the pitch had cracks from the ODI’s, the groundsmen did a good job in covering them up and making it a pitch that can help the seamers upfront. The support received though would be minimal and India had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss

 

The team selection of West Indies was a little weird considering they went into the match with four bowlers. An off-day for any one of the bowlers would prove fatal

 

India handed debuts to Abhinav Mukund, Virat Kohli and Praveen Kumar in the match- first time since 2001 that three players were handed out the Test caps in the same match. It was perhaps a mighty co-incidence that all three of them got off the mark with a boundary, though in contrasting styles

 

Abhinav Mukund faced the first ball of the innings and a few balls in, his weakness for having a swish at balls pitched on or around off stump was becoming apparent.The pace bowlers were giving him a tough life on the pitch. Murali Vijay on the other hand started off fluently and looked to be good touch, dispelling all the fears of injury. The first mistake that he committed turned out to be the last one as he leaned forward into a drive and tried to compensate that by removing the bottom hand off the bat. The damage had been done though, as the ball flew to backward point where Bishoo held an easy catch

 

Rahul Dravid, celebrating his fifteenth year in Test cricket came to the crease with some repair work needed. He was lucky initially that an edge was wide of the slip cordon and ran away to the boundary. He was troubled by the ball jagging back in and was caught on more than a couple of occasions playing for the wrong line. At the other end Mukund seemed to have weathered the initial storm but then the temptation to push at one delivery cost him fatally as it carried back to the keeper

 

Laxman who is not a stranger to repair works in the middle was taken aback by the bounce off the very first ball he faced as he could not draw the bat back in time and got an outside edge that fell short of the first slip. Then he caressed a short ball of Sammy to the backward point fence. Lady luck smiled on him once again as he flicked a ball that Rampaul couldn’t hold onto, diving to his left

 

Though they seemed a touch nervous about the bounce on the pitch, the pair then proceeded to make minor adjustments to their batting methods. They played the ball late and with soft hands so that the odd edge wouldn’t carry to the fielders. In the meanwhile, Dravis seemed to have got his eye in and was concentrating on playing the ball straight and picked up runs whenever the bowlers erred with their lengths. Typical Dravid

 

The pair knew that the spin had to come at some time. Bishoo came in and was elated with his first ball as he drew Laxman into driving the ball early. The resultant edge flew to first slip. Kohli got a gift that dispelled the butterflies as he got one on the leg stump, which was flicked to fine-leg with authority. However the ODI instincts showed up as he too stretched his bat far away from his body and got an outside edge. With the wickets falling regularly, the teams went into lunch with West Indies calling the shots

 

Raina was attacked by short balls by Edwards upon his arrival and he dealt with them by ducking under them or weaving away from the line. With one weakness being taken care of, all that he needed to do was to settle down in for the long haul. Though it seemed for his personal interest at the beginning of the innings, it became a cause for the team as the innings progressed

 

Dravid came out with positive intent after lunch as he drove and cut Bishoo off successive balls past covers for boundaries. He then flicked one past midwicket for a couple. At that stage it looked as if Dravid would be the Atlas on whom India relied

 

Bishoo had the final laugh as he got Dravid also in the same manner as Laxman. He forced Dravid to drive early and pulled the outside edge off his bat. When he deceived Dhoni with bounce and got the edge flying off the glove, the end seemed imminent. Harbhajan had other plans in mind though

 

The strategy of unsettling the best bowler to allow cutting a scythe through the other bowlers was his modus operandi. He proceeded to brutalise the pace bowlers too as they over compensated by pitching it on the middle and leg. Harbhajan initially had to just guide the ball into the gaps and proceeded to hit the ball across the line to stunning impact

 

After those three wickets, Bishoo failed to make an impression on the pair as he was attacked whenever he came back into the attack. Whenever the pacers tightened the line outside the off stump, Harbhajan was in visible trouble as he was rushed into his strokes. The pace of Edwards troubled him a touch but then because of the attacking shots at his disposal, he could wave away the threat

 

Raina was patience personified at the other end. He contributed to the counter-attack by feeding the strike to Harbhajan and also attacking when the bowlers provided him the width. He also showed a lot of majority when he noticed that Harbhajan was being troubled a touch by the seamers. He kept the intent going as he unfurled attacking shots of his own. None better than couple of straight drives that he played to get to his half-century

 

The only blemish in the partnership, if it can be called that was the faulty calling. Luckily for India, it did not lead to disastrous consequences

 

India completed the second session by firmly being in control of the match. This was when Edwards started to get his line in order. He was getting Harbhajan to play his strokes early. Finally he had his man when he made Harbhajan to play the hook shot and Bishoo grabbed a superb catch at deep square-leg. Praveen Kumar, making his debut started off in Gower-esque manner as he got a half-volley on the leg stump which was driven straight

 

West Indies seamers did not give back the initiative gained and snaffled up the three wickets in quick succession. Raina seemed a little apprehensive of facing Edwards as he did not attempt to hoard the strike. He himself fell to an injudicious pull shot

 

When it was West Indies turn to bat the bowlers did get the swing but not the line. Ishant, in particular gave a workout to Dhoni’s back. He had Simmons edging a ball to short-leg. Barath and Sarwan then shut shop to prevent any more damage

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