Gritty Windies holds fort

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had set the West Indies a tantalising target of 281 in a minimum of 83 overs. The host survived barely, thanks to a determined effort from batsman Darren Bravo, reports S. Dinakar.

An engrossing final day unfolded after a bold declaration by Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the second Test between India and West Indies at the hallowed Kensington Oval. Threatened to be ruined by inclement weather, the Test came alive in the final stretch.

When the Indian skipper ended the second innings at 269 for six, he set the West Indies a tantalising target of 281 in a minimum of 83 overs. Dhoni was seeking a series win apart from leading India to its first Test victory in Birdgetown, Barbados. Going into the Test, India had a woeful record of seven defeats and a draw in eight Tests at the venue. For long, Badbados has been the bastion of the West Indies.

Even after the West Indian decline started, India found the going tough on the track at the Kensington Oval that was still quicker and bouncier than most pitches in the Caribbean.

In the end, bad light ended India's aspiration when a victory appeared a possibility. The West Indies was 202 for seven in 71.3 overs when the umpires decided to offer light to the West Indian batsmen. In a bizarre development, the ground was bathed in bright sunshine moments after the players shook hands. You can expect the unexpected with both cricket and the weather.

India was given a scare though when Darren Bravo (73) held firm and wicketkeeper batsman Carlton Baugh (46 not out) cut loose from the other end. When a spell of rain interrupted the match briefly after tea, the West Indies was 181 for five after 64.3 overs.

And when the play resumed, the West Indies, with an over cut short because of the break, required 100 more runs in 17.3 overs. Fighting for survival at the beginning of the final session, it appeared to be in with an outside chance of a win now. But then, paceman Abhimanyu Mithun prised out the stylish Bravo on the steer and Ishant Sharma's sizzling in-swinger trapped Darren Sammy leg-before. Soon, the contest concluded.

The match was a triumph for Ishant. The paceman scaled ten in the Test; six in the first and four in the second innings. He also went past his 100th Test wicket in his 33rd Test. He bowled with heart, passion and skill.

He ran in with wonderful rhythm and bowled with an exemplary wrist position. The paceman bowled in excess of 140 kmph, extracted discomforting bounce and seamed the ball both ways from a compelling off-stump line.

“Ishant has been the pick of our bowlers. He has bowled with a lot of skill,” said skipper Dhoni.

Ishant has also displayed greater fitness as his scorching spells in the final session indicate. “Zaheer Khan showed the value of fitness and I am thankful to him for that,” he said. The tall paceman with a high-arm action has also displayed the strength of mind to recover from a career-threatening phase. “I have realised that a sportsman's career will have its ups and the downs. One has to fight his way through. The last one and a half years have been tough for me. My family has played a very important role,” he said.

The manner in which Ishant shifted his line to the left-handers was exemplary. All the elements of his bowling worked in cohesion. It was Ishant's rousing bowling that was primarily responsible for the West Indies being bowled out at 190 after India had made just 201 in its first innings. Ishant steamed in and bowled with velocity and control.

The match was not without controversy. The footage of a previous delivery was shown when umpire Ian Gould wanted to check the legality of a delivery after Dhoni was caught off Fidel Edwards in the first innings. Actually, Edwards had overstepped the crease. Despite an apology from the production team of the host broadcaster, the damage had been done. This was a clear instance when technology failed.

For India, V.V.S. Laxman batted with enterprise and application on a lively surface where the odd ball seemed to rise from short-of-a-good-length. The batsman with languid elegance missed a century in both the innings but handled the bounce superbly. He either played with soft hands or launched into the pull.

Laxman also became the fourth Indian batsman — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar being the others — to cross 8000 runs in Tests; it was his 122nd match. This was a significant milestone for a batsman who has never really been given the credit for his performances.

In an enduring and eventful journey that began in 1996, Laxman has been among India's biggest match-winners. Moments of crisis stoke his combative instincts. This charmer with the bat sliced the bowling with delicate strokes on the canvas. Crucially from an Indian perspective, Abhinav Mukund made a hard-fought 48 in the second innings. The left-hander has a still head and a tight game. And he displayed sound judgment in the corridor.

For the West Indies, Edwards bowled with pace and hostility in both innings. The slinger's short-pitched deliveries climbed awkwardly at the batsmen. He reverse swung the ball and bowled a consistent out-side the off-stump line on the final day.

His speed has not diminished after his long and often frustrating battles with fitness concerns. Once again, he gave a torrid time to Virat Kohli with his lifting deliveries.

And Marlon Samuels made an impression with a fighting innings of 78 not out in the first innings. This right-hander has poise and a sense of timing. But then, Ramnaresh Sarwan's horror run with the willow continued. The West Indies still has major batting worries.

THE SCORES

Second Test, Bridgetown, Barbados, June 28-July 2, 2011. Match drawn.

India — 1st innings: A. Mukund c Samuels b Rampaul 1; M. Vijay c Baugh b Rampaul 11; R. Dravid c Baugh b Sammy 5; V. V. S. Laxman c Barath b Bishoo 85; V. Kohli c Sammy b Rampaul 0; S. Raina c Barath b Bishoo 53; M. Dhoni c Chanderpaul b Edwards 2; Harbhajan Singh c Barath b Edwards 5; Praveen Kumar st. Baugh b Bishoo 12; A. Mithun b Edwards 0; Ishant Sharma (not out) 1; Extras (b-5, lb-4, w-11, nb- 6) 26. Total: 201.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-8, 3-38, 4-38, 5-155, 6-167, 7-183, 8-187, 9-189.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 19-2-56-3; Rampaul 16-6-38-3; Sammy 19-4-52-1; Bishoo 14-1-46-3.

West Indies — 1st innings: A. Barath c Kohli b Ishant 3; L. Simmons c Dhoni b Praveen 2; R. Sarwan lbw b Ishant 18; D. M. Bravo c Dhoni b Mithun 9; D. Bishoo c Kohli b Ishant 13; S. Chanderpaul b Mithun 37; M. Samuels (not out) 78; C. Baugh c Dravid b Harbhajan 2; D. Sammy lbw b Ishant 15; R. Rampaul c Vijay b Ishant 0; F. Edwards c Dhoni b Ishant 0; Extras (lb-3, w-5, nb-5) 13. Total: 190.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-5, 3-30, 4-53, 5-57, 6-134, 7-143, 8-186, 9-190.

India bowling: Praveen 23-3-67-1; Ishant 21.5-7-55-6; Mithun 15-6-34-2; Harbhajan 14-3-31-1.

India — 2nd innings: A. Mukund c Baugh b Edwards 48; M. Vijay c Baugh b Rampaul 3; R. Dravid c Sarwan b Edwards 55; V. V. S. Laxman c Sammy b Edwards 87; V. Kohli c Sammy b Edwards 27; S. Raina (not out) 12; M. Dhoni c Chanderpaul b Edwards 5; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 6; Extras (b-4, lb-9, w-5, nb-8) 26. Total (for six wkts., decl.) 269.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-89, 3-154, 4-232, 5-247, 6-253.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 23-4-76-5; Rampaul 28-6-72-1; Sammy 24-8-45-0; Bishoo 27-4-63-0.

West Indies — 2nd innings: A. Barath c Raina b Ishant 27; L. Simmons c Dravid b Ishant 14; R. Sarwan c Raina b Praveen 8; D. M. Bravo c Dhoni b Mithun 73; S. Chanderpaul lbw b Harbhajan 12; M. Samuels lbw b Ishant 9; C. Baugh (not out) 46; D. Sammy lbw b Ishant 0; R. Rampaul (not out) 0; Extras (b-5, lb-6, nb-2) 13. Total (for seven wkts.) 202.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-27, 3-55, 4-109, 5-132, 6-201, 7-202.

India bowling: Praveen 16-6-41-1; Ishant 19.3-4-53-4; Mithun 13-3-50-1; Harbhajan 19-2-42-1; Raina 4-1-5-0.