S. Ram Mahesh

Gros Islet: Mohammad Kaif's maiden Test hundred helped India build on the advantage conferred by centuries from Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, and move into a position from where it can dictate play in the second Test.

By tea on the second day, the visiting side resuming on 361 for four reached 584 for seven wickets on a benign Beausejour Cricket Ground pitch.

Many of Dravid's hundreds abroad have been silent, impassioned statements against what has gone on around him. He has looked inward and drawn from within.

One has sensed denial perhaps even a touch of me-against-the-world. These may merely be assumptions that sound good because they stoke the romantic in us; Dravid might say he just goes out and bats.

Resembling Waugh

But, it's undeniable that he wills himself to heights. Few cricketers have had his mental strength: Molars clenched, jaw set, eyes narrowed, he resembles Steve Waugh.

Dravid's 23rd Test hundred his 15th on foreign soil started off familiarly: the carefully judged but bracing leave outside off; the flick off the front knee; the leant into, wristed off-drive.

Yet there was something different: coming in at 161 for two had relieved him off the knife-edge of battle he craves.

So he competed against himself, furthering his excellence of stroke execution. Mistakes rare in any Dravid stint were cut down to a minimum. The square cut was brandished.

Kaif, who resumed on 18, scored 71 runs off 101 balls in the first session. This too was a different innings, probably his coming of age as a Test batsman.

The stretch of bat-handle rubber that shows between Kaif's top and bottom hand on his grip suggests he is apt to drive uppishly; indeed this has brought about his downfall in the past. On Sunday, however, his driving was beyond reproach.

Dravid (146, 234b, 16 fours) fell, incongruously, to a wide long-hop that he almost twinged his back to reach, as the lunch gong sounded. His first charitable moment was his last.

The captain's ally in the 179-run fifth wicket partnership, Kaif, got to his century with his 10th four a moment of sparkle on a day that threatened to numb the mind with the number of runs accumulated.

Nearly man

The 25-year-old from Allahabad has been India's nearly man in Test cricket an injury after two half-centuries against Australia in 2004 didn't aid his effort to infiltrate the thickly-populated Indian middle order. After a match-saving 91 against England in the first Test earlier this year, he was left out the five-bowler theory's collateral damage. With his performance here following his unbeaten 46 in the second innings of the previous Test Kaif has made it difficult for the team management to drop him.

In the middle, it grew overcast, Dhoni and Kaif accepted the umpires' offer of light, and play was held up. The first ball after the break, Dhoni carved Bradshaw to Ganga. Pathan fell 38 runs later; India batted on.

In the final session on Saturday, Collins hurried Sehwag (180, 190b, 20 fours, two sixes) into popping back a caught and bowled chance, which he bobbled before taking. The opener had put on 139 with his skipper. "I knew no Indian had made a century before lunch, so I was disappointed at not getting it," said Sehwag.

When Collins disturbed the woodwork behind Yuvraj Singh, he notched up 100 Test victims. "It was a great feeling," said the man who took all four Indian wickets to fall on the first day. "It's been a time coming with my injuries; it was just marvelous."

SCOREBOARD India 1st innings: W. Jaffer c Bravo b Collins 43, V. Sehwag c & b Collins 180, V.V.S. Laxman c Ramdin b Collins 0, R. Dravid c Lara b Sarwan 146, Y. Singh b Collins 2, M. Kaif (batting) 145, M.S. Dhoni c Ganga b Bradshaw 9, I. Pathan c Ganga b Gayle 19, A. Kumble (batting) 13; Extras (b-4, lb-7, nb-11, w-3) 25

Total (for seven wickets in 146 overs, at tea) 584.

Fall of wickets: 1-159 (Jaffer), 2-161 (Laxman), 3-300 (Sehwag), 4-306 (Yuvraj), 5-485 (Dravid), 6-517 (Dhoni), 7-555 (Pathan).

West Indies bowling: Collins 27-5-113-4, Taylor 23-3-87-0, Bravo 10-0-66-0, Collymore 21-1-92-0, Bradshaw 26-6-80-1, Sarwan 18-0-83-1, Gayle 21-6-52-1.

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