Indian spin cocktail

The new spin twins...Praygan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin.-PICS: S. SUBRAMANIUM

Indian spin was humming again as Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha combined to send the West Indies on a tailspin. K. C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

Close to the ramparts of the Ferozeshah Kotla Fort, a cricketing venue sharing the same nomenclature witnessed a former number one Test team reveal enough glimpses of its inherent regal air that was often constructed in the past through its formidable batting and the beguiling art of spin.

India defeated the West Indies by five wickets in the first Test at Delhi (Nov. 6 to 9), to gain a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. It was a result that reflected the relative merits of the two contestants and helped M. S. Dhoni's men shed the rust that had bred within their Test combinations during the damp and disastrous tour of England.

However, as Dhoni said in the post-match press conference, it was not an easy match despite its longevity not spilling beyond four days. A sluggish pitch meant that batsmen could not take their free-flowing shots for granted which is a usual behavioural pattern that afflicts willow wielders in the Indian sub-continent.

Briefly India even played catch-up as the West Indies gained a 95-run first innings lead and the host continued to suffer batting-blues despite its top-five having a combined aggregate of more than 45,000 Test runs! The West Indies though slumped in its second innings while debutant R. Ashwin tweaked in his off-breaks and carom balls to winkle out six wickets in an overall match-haul of nine scalps.

India was set a target of 276, a proposition that had to be scaled down from the third day evening onwards. “You cannot get India out twice for less than 250,” Darren Sammy said later after defeat's shadow queered the taste of the rum-punch in the West Indies' ranks. And true to the West Indies' skipper's retrospective wisdom, India cruised to 276 for five, 32 minutes after lunch on the fourth day.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul ...the old war horse was in sublime touch.-

The chase was embellished with gusto at the top thanks to Virender Sehwag's 55 and then the middle-order played varying roles that bore fruition in an Indian triumph. Rahul Dravid's adhesive quotient, Sachin Tendulkar's ease and V. V. S. Laxman's enhanced sinewy grace and smiles, often seen in fourth innings jaunts, all combined well to put the match beyond the visitor's grasp.

The quick result seemed a distant mirage when the match commenced under skies with a hint of fog on a Sunday morning. Sammy won the toss, opted to bat and amidst the web that left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha (six for 72) and Ashwin wove, the West Indies skipper found vindication for his decision through a pair that shrunk their obvious generation-gap.

Veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul (118, 196b, 7x4, 2x6) and 18-year old Kraigg Brathwaite (63, 212b, 4x4) shared a 108-run fourth-wicket partnership that melded the senior's positive vein and the rookie's defensive streak into a strong wall that tested the Indian bowlers. Chanderpaul's 24th Test ton, again under-lined his value to Sammy's line-up and helped his team score 304 in its first innings.

The Indian reply had a merry air atop the order as Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag (55) added 89 for the first wicket. Rahul Dravid then chipped in a 54 but the rest failed with Sammy's medium-pace causing more damage than the express fare dished out by Fidel Edwards though the speedster accounted for Tendulkar. India was bowled out for 209 and the match was hovering at its two-roads interface, with one promising a West Indian resurgence and the other leading to an Indian revival.

One of the highlights of the Test...the lightning stumping of Virender Sehwag by Carlton Baugh off Devendra Bishoo.-

Ashwin, peddler of a slow craft and coping with the shadow of Harbhajan Singh, nudged India towards victory's path as he prised out the heart of the West Indies batting. His six for 47 was a product of his accuracy and the variations he unleashed, the most potent being the carom ball that cleaned up Marlon Samuels. Ashwin's match haul of nine for 128 was the second best effort by an Indian debutant behind Narendra Hirwani's 16 for 136 against the West Indies at Chennai in 1988. The West Indies was bundled out for 180 though Chanderpaul (47) and Sammy (42) proved that runs could be had through an optimistic approach.

India began scaling down the target (276) without fuss and truth be told, the pitch held no demons and the West Indies attack had no threats. Sehwag punched Edwards down the ground, clouted leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and India was on course. Like in the first innings, Gambhir and Sehwag failed to build on the good start and the two leading run-scorers in Tests — Dravid (31) and Tendulkar (76, 148b, 10x4) — had to play their beacons-of-hope roles all over again across the third day's last stage.

Edwards cleaned up Dravid on the fourth morning with a delivery that fused devious intentions with unerring accuracy. There were no alarm bells, however, as Tendulkar played with freedom and Laxman (58, 105b, 6x4) tucked into the freebies that zoomed into his legs. In the final stretch, the 100th international hundred evaded Tendulkar but for India, victory was always within reach against a tepid opponent.

THE SCORES

West Indies — 1st innings: K. Brathwaite st. Dhoni b Ojha 63, K. Powell lbw b Ojha 14, K. Edwards c & b Ojha 15 , D. Bravo b Ashwin 12, S. Chanderpaul lbw b Ishant 118, M. Samuels c Dhoni b Ashwin 15, C. Bough lbw b Ojha 27, D. Sammy lbw b Ojha 5, R. Rampaul lbw b Ashwin 12, F. Edwards c Sehwag b Ojha 10, D. Bishoo (not out) 0. Extras (b-4, lb-8, nb-1): 13; Total (all out in 108.2 overs): 304.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-45, 3-72, 4-180, 5-200, 6-269, 7-281, 8-281, 9-304.

India bowling: Ishant 25-5-80-1, Yadav 19-5-52-0, Ojha 34.2-9-72-6, Ashwin 27-4-81-3, Sehwag 2-0-5-0, Yuvraj 1-0-2-0.

India — Ist innings: G. Gambhir (run out) 41, V. Sehwag st. Baugh b Bishoo 55, R. Dravid c Sammy b Rampaul 54, S. Tendulkar lbw b Edwards 7, V. V. S. Laxman c Baugh b Bishoo 1, Yuvraj Singh c Kirk Edwards b Sammy 23, M. S. Dhoni b Sammy 0, R. Ashwin c Baugh b Sammy 0, Ishant c Baugh b Samuels 17, P. Ojha (not out) 3, U. Yadav b Rampaul 0. Extras (b-5, w-1, nb-2): 8; Total (all out in 52.5 overs): 209.

Fall of wickets: 1-89, 2-100, 3-113, 4-120, 5-152, 6-152, 7-154, 8-203, 9-209.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 11-1-57-1, Rampaul 14.5-2-44-2, Sammy 8-1-35-3, Bishoo 14-0-55-2, Samuels 5-0-13-1.

West Indies — 2nd innings: K. Brathwaite lbw b Ojha 2, K. Powell c Gambhir b Ashwin 0, K. Edwards b Yadav 33, F. Edwards c Dhoni b Sharma 1, D. Bravo lbw b Ashwin 12, S. Chanderpaul lbw b Ashwin 47, M. Samuels b Ashwin 0, C. Baugh c Dhoni b Yadav 7, D. Sammy b Ashwin 42, R. Rampaul c Ojha b Ashwin 18, D. Bishoo (not out) 9. Extras (b-1, lb-8): 9; Total (all out in 57.3 overs): 180.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-17, 3-26, 4-53, 5-63, 6-63, 7-84, 8-124, 9-157.

India bowling: Ojha 14-4-37-1, Ashwin 21.3-5-47-6, Yuvraj 1-0-2-0, Ishant 14-2-49-1, Yadav 7-0-36-2.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir lbw b Samuels 22, V. Sehwag b Sammy 55, R. Dravid b Edwards 31, S. Tendulkar lbw b Bishoo 76, V. V. S. Laxman (not out) 58, Yuvraj Singh b Sammy 18, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 0. Extras (b-1, lb-14, nb-1): 16; Total (for five wkts., in 80.4 overs): 276.

Fall of wickets: 1-51, 2-95, 3-162, 4-233, 5-275.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 15-3-51-1, Rampaul 10-0-34-0, Sammy 16-0-56-2, Samuels 16-0-57-1, Bishoo 22.2-2-56-1, Brathwaite 1.4-0-7-0.