India moved closer to a 2-0 series win after Harbhajan Singh's double strike late in the day. However, a captivating century from debutant Kirk Edwards and some resolute batting from Shivnarine Chanderpaul enabled the West Indies to fight back when another collapse appeared imminent.
At the end of a long, gruelling fourth day of the third Test at the Windsor Park here, the West Indies was 224 for six in its second innings; the host had conceded a 143-run lead to India. Chanderpaul was batting on a typically fighting 73.
Edwards was the cynosure for his outstanding 110. The powerful right-hander earned a standing ovation from a goodly crowd when he walked back.
Harbhajan, whose methods have been more attacking in this innings, ended Edwards' rousing innings when he angled the delivery across the right-hander from round-the-wicket. The delivery bounced more than expected and Edwards, attempting to play square on the off-side, got a fatal nick. A delighted Harbhajan struck again in the same over. But then, the off-spinner was fortunate to win the leg-before decision after Marlon Samuels played back. The round-the-wicket angle was taking the ball beyond off-stump.
Then, Praveen Kumar prised out Carlton Baugh, picked up at short cover. India now holds all the aces on a sluggish track that continues to favour batsmen.
Edwards began tentatively - he top-edged an attempted pull off Munaf Patel and could not quite time the ball initially - but grew in confidence. This 26-year-old Bajan is not without ability. The tall Edwards has a semi-open stance but gets into a good side-on position when he meets the ball. His straight drive off Ishant Sharma scorched the turf.
As the innings progressed, Edwards' bat became broader; his footwork improved too. He danced down the track to strike Harbhjan over mid-off when the off-spinner flighted one. Soon, Edwards shifted the weight to his back-foot and thumped Harbhajan through covers.
When Ishant dropped one short, Edwards was quick to respond with a pull. Not much later, Harbhajan was blasted down the ground. Yet, Edwards used his aggression judiciously. He also relied on checked drives and pushes for his one and twos. He raised his arms and acknowledged the crowd after reaching an enthralling century.
From the other end, the experienced Chanderpaul guided Edwards like a senior professional should. The wily left-hander batted like he usually does; pulling his bat in at the last moment and leaving deliveries outside the off-stump. The veteran concentrated hard and played the ball late. Harbhajan's spin was handled with soft hands. The southpaw was fortunate though on 25 when Rahul Dravid reacted late to a sharp chance at slip. Harbhajan was the bowler to suffer. Although it was an innings of defence - he picked most of his runs with nudges and pushes - Chanderpaul did come up with a couple of memorable strokes. He went down on one knee and drove Praveen Kumar through covers. And Munaf Patel was cut with panache.
Dhoni set attacking fields. Shivnarine Chanderpaul took strike to Harbhajan Singh and was surrounded by the forward and backward short-legs, silly point, gully and slip. The pressure on the West Indies batsmen was intense.
In a telling strike, Harbhajan Singh had taken out Darren Bravo with a delivery of flight and loop. The in-form Bravo attempted a lofted stroke over long-off but was done in by the dip. He was picked up at mid-off. The West Indies’ men were in considerable stress at 40 for three when Bravo departed.
Harbhajan bowled with greater rhythm, flighting the ball and getting it to grip the surface and spin. He varied his pace too and harnessed the angles. He tested the southpaws from round-the-wicket. The surface was still on the slower side but there was increasing purchase for the spinners. Harbhajan made compelling viewing.
After India was dismissed for 347 in its first innings, the Indian pacemen once again struck early tom expose the West Indian top-order. Ishant with his hit-the-deck methods, off-stump line and bounce combined effectively with Praveen Kumar's control and swing.
Getting the delivery to dart across the left-handed Keiran Powell, Ishant found the edge for Suresh Raina to hold the offering at third slip. Powell was loose outside the off-stump. Then, Praveen Kumar dismissed Adrian Barath when the batsman played away from the body to a delivery moving outside the off-stump. Virat Kohli made no mistake at fourth slip. Barath needs to read situations better.
The experienced Chanderpaul, typically, offered dogged resistance. Kirk Edwards, unsure in the corridor and unconvincing with his stroke-selection, top-edged a Munaf bouncer past the fence.
Earlier, Fidel Edwards, with the ball still new, bowled with pace and hostility to come up with his second five-wicket haul of the series. The slinger has bowled with precision and heart and his short-pitched deliveries, angling into the batsmen, have been well-directed. The fiery Edwards took out Harbhajan Singh with a mean lifter. And the battling Mahendra Singh Dhoni (74), coming up with his first substantial innings of the series, attempted to pull a short ball from Edwards to be held at deep square leg.
Praveen Kumar struck a few weighty blows but the West Indies made short work of the Indian tail. This was a creditable display from the host considering the side was a bowler short; although Ravi Rampaul recovered from illness to make an appearance, he will be available to bowl only on Sunday.
The game appeared to be in the balance on Friday before the West Indies ran into a road-block in the left-right pair of Raina (50) and Dhoni. The two batted with cricketing nous to provide India an advantage with a crucial 103-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Dhoni and Raina rotated the strike and ran hard between the wickets. The duo relied more on tight pushes than flamboyant drives which was smart cricket on this surface.
The absence of Rampaul greatly reduced Darren Sammy's options. So much so that he had Shivnarine Chanderpaul's part-time leg-spin supporting Devendra Bishoo for a long period after tea. Chanderpaul prised out V.V.S. Laxman in a freakish dismissal but was unlikely to strike again. Bishoo did get a few deliveries to turn and bounce but there were occasions when he operated to a negative outside-the-leg-stump line.
Gradually, Raina and Dhoni asserted themselves. Raina pulled Bishoo when the leg-spinner dropped one short and then slog-swept Chanderpaul. Perhaps seeking some relief from his working-the-ball-around routine, Dhoni blasted Bishoo through cover. Raina reached a well-deserved half-century before Fidel Edwards, with the second new ball, had the left-hander trapped leg-before with a delivery that rocketed in; the southpaw had attempted to play across.
The contest between Edwards and Dhoni was an engrossing one. The slinger beat the Indian captain outside the off-stump. There were a couple of occasions when Dhoni, undone by the extra pace, was a tad late on the ball. But Dhoni found his bearings soon. He thumped Edwards through covers. This was a rousing shot. Dhoni, finally, had pulled his weight with the bat.