S. Ram Mahesh

Anil Kumble gave Laxman excellent supportHarbhajan came up with an entertaining rearguard attackTaylor nailed both Dravid and Kaif with ones that nipped in

BASSETERRE: Jerome Taylor, in a spell of speed and cut, split the third Test open on the fourth morning. A little over twenty minutes into Sunday's play, the quick from Jamaica dismissed Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, and Mohammad Kaif in the space of six balls to leave India five down, and 223 adrift of making West Indies bat again.

V.V.S. Laxman then shrugged off the pressure three poor strokes in three stints had brought, and made his tenth hundred. Even for a man who has authored many defining innings another matter that most such as his 104 not out and 67 not out, when India last followed on, against New Zealand at Mohali in 2003 get forgotten this was a crucial knock.

Laxman's knock of 100 (231b, 15x4) gave his side a chance of averting the follow-on, thus prolonging the Test, and forcing a draw. But Ramdin collapsed smartly to get his right glove around an edge off Collins to dismiss the wristy artist, breaking India's resistance before tea.

Same old story?

By Monday evening it will be known if Sunday's first session was that one bad session that seems to cost India Test series abroad.

If it is, the team will be allowed sympathy for they came within a wicket of victory in Antigua after a stirring fightback, and were denied by the rain at St. Lucia, losing an entire day yet finishing only three wickets short.

But, sympathy as the English will testify wins nothing. It's up to India to dig itself out of the hole: Laxman and Dhoni willingly picked up spades to do what was necessary. But, just when it looked like the first bit had been done, Collymore trapped Dhoni in front, as India went to lunch at a precarious 241 for six.

In the middle session, Anil Kumble gave Laxman excellent support as the pair put on 77 for the seventh wicket. Harbhajan Singh then tried to hit his way past 381 in the company of Munaf Patel.

The Test has been partial to birthday boys. Sarwan made a hundred on his 26th; Taylor, who celebrated his 22nd on Thursday, got his presents three days late.

The pencil-slim fast bowler at least three inches short of six-feet tall will scare no one in a hotel lobby.

A potent combination

Ball in hand on Sunday, Taylor was different. Make no mistake, he still wasn't the nasty tearaway that breakfasts on blood and nails. He bowled with pace, yes, but it wasn't his primary weapon.

Velocity between 85 and 89 mph, allied to deviation off the track, when sprung from a troubling, consistent line and length is potent. A schizophrenic umpire helps as well.

Taylor nailed both Dravid and Kaif with ones that nipped in. The first was out, though it required Hawk Eye's assistance to confirm it hit the pad within off-stump. The second would have done well to scrape leg peg though Kaif walked in front. It was not an utter howler, when seen in isolation; Brian Jerling, however, has been steadfast in refusing closer shouts.

He negated ten, on conservative count, that could have gone to India's bowlers. Consistency demanded he bring the same approach to the next innings.

Breezy opening stand

India's openers had started on Saturday as if they were part of a rapid chase. Fifty came in 8.4 overs. Virender Sehwag sped to 31 before helping Collymore to second slip.

Wasim Jaffer, as is his wont, played pretty strokes; the opener from Mumbai actually had the time to catch up with a pacy Taylor delivery outside off and direct it down to third-man. He made 60.

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