S. Ram Mahesh
St. John's: A forceful second-wicket partnership of 119 from just 23.3 overs between Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan helped the West Indies seize control on the second day of the first Test here at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
The West Indies was 182 for three in 41 overs at tea. Ramnaresh Sarwan (58) and S. Chanderpaul (6) were at the crease.
India, resuming on 235 for nine, was bowled out in under five overs on the second morning. Fidel Edwards, after a few words from his skipper, got one on target to terminate the visiting side for 241.
Play was delayed 15 minutes after a passing cloud decided to shed its moisture. The covers were nailed in even before the drizzle came; evidently, the weather hot-line here works. Then the sun came out as if nothing untoward had happened.
Munaf Patel impressed with the new ball. On a track that despite a grass trim before start continued to give value for effort, the quick from Gujarat had Gayle in early trouble: he seemingly caught the left-hander in front, but umpire Asad Rauf disagreed. It was just the break Gayle needed. He tore into Sreesanth, bludgeoning him straight for six, and upper-cutting him with venom.
Rauf probably compensated for the Gayle `not out' by upholding an appeal against Daren Ganga, who was hit marginally outside off-stump. The West Indies went to lunch at 81 for one from just 14 overs: a rollicking start that fed off an old Indian bowling failing. Sreesanth and V.R.V. Singh struggled to consistently find the hit-the-deck length the pitch encouraged.
Gayle brought up his 23rd fifty after lunch with a squeezed edge to the third-man fence. His partner Sarwan was all crisp compactness.
The wicket began to ease as the day progressed enabling the Gayle and Sarwan to gain initiative. But Kumble that untiring warrior struck in the second ball after drinks in the middle session, getting Gayle (72, 91b, 13 fours, one six) to steer to first slip. Brian Lara banished any withdrawal pangs that might have set in with a thrillingly pulled six in front of square off Sreesanth.
Munaf, though, had the West Indies skipper caught at point to give India the faintest chance of getting back into the game.
On Friday, all of India's batsmen except Wasim Jaffer got starts, but failed to last the distance. They got Test-quality deliveries that landed in the right regions, and offered to move off the track.
The slightest error in judgment could have proved fatal most of India's batsmen made mistakes that were more than slight. Corey Collymore and Dwayne Bravo exploited this with well-measured deliveries. The latter pulled his fingers across the left-half of ball to bowl leg-cutters that kicked; he went the other way with his fingers to produce slower balls that hung.
Only Rahul Dravid volunteered concentration for four minutes over four hours. After tea, Kaif inside-edged a drive to leave India at 155 for five. M.S. Dhoni played an innings full of hustle and chutzpah, but edged Collymore to second slip, and things got worse when the Indian captain's concentration broke. He twitched his bat at one outside off.
Then Sreesanth and Kumble showed what common sense and the willingness to grind it out could achieve. The pair added 47 for the eighth wicket crucial runs before Bravo surprised Kumble with the new ball. It bounced on the 35-year-old, and slipped off bat face on to stumps.
India 1st innings: W. Jaffer c Ramdin b Edwards 1, V. Sehwag c Lara b Collymore 36, V.V.S. Laxman c Ramdin b Bravo 29, R. Dravid c Lara b Collymore 49, Y. Singh b Mohammed 23, M. Kaif c Ramdin b Bravo 13, M.S. Dhoni c Lara b Collymore 19, A. Kumble b Bravo 21, S. Sreesanth (not out) 29, V.R.V. Singh c Sarwan b Bravo 2, M. Patel b Edwards 0, Extras (lb-8, nb-9, w-2) 19, Total (in 92.5 overs) 241.
Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Jaffer), 2-51 (Sehwag), 3-72 (Laxman), 4-126 (Yuvraj), 5-155 (Kaif), 6-179 (Dhoni), 7-180 (Dravid), 8-227 (Kumble), 9-231 (V.R.V. Singh).
West Indies bowling: Edwards 18.5-3-53-1, Bradshaw 24-3-83-0, Collymore 17-7-27-3, Gayle 4-0-6-0, Bravo 22-9-40-4, Mohammed 7-1-24-1.
West Indies: C. Gayle c Dravid b Kumble 72, D. Ganga lbw b Munaf 9, R. Sarwan (batting) 58, B. Lara c Yuvraj b Munaf 18, S. Chanderpaul (batting) 6; Extras (lb-9, w-1, nb-9) 19; Total (for three wkts. in 41 overs at tea) 182.
Fall of wickets: 1-18 (Ganga), 2-137 (Gayle), 3-159 (Lara).
India bowling: Sreesanth 9-0-60-0, Munaf 13-3-45-2, V.R.V. Singh 8-1-35-0, Kumble 11-1-33-1.