SPORT

Gayle, Hinds weather the storm

Harbhajan Singh, whose three-wicket strike gave India some respite, celebrates the dismissal of Mervyn Dillon.

Harbhajan Singh, whose three-wicket strike gave India some respite, celebrates the dismissal of Mervyn Dillon.  

KOLKATA OCT. 31. Wavell Hinds and Chris Gayle are quite effervescent characters and it reflected in their batting — positive and entertaining. Hinds came out strongly on Thursday to confirm his potential with a century of immense value to his team, while the authoritative Gayle hung on to continue his fight on Friday.

Individually, Hinds made some big strides with this knock — his third century in Tests — but it was the team which gained more as West Indies gave a fitting reply to India's first innings total. Incidentally Hinds' last Test century had come against India at the Sabina Park in Kingston this year.

The Indian spinners, on a slow turning pitch, had been rendered ineffective for most part of the day by the much-improved West Indians. It was a refreshing change in the West Indies' approach, which was jolted only towards the closing stages of the day when Harbhajan Singh grabbed three quick wickets to bring cheer to the Indian camp.

The West Indies finished the day at 189 for three, still 169 runs behind India's first innings total of 358. Pad-play, so astutely used by Jimmy Adams on spinner-friendly tracks in India in 1994, came in so handy for the West Indians here, reducing the Indian attack to a frustrated lot at the Eden Gardens.

Even in the `nets' the West Indians had concentrated on using the pad judiciously when dealing with the slow men and the tactic was put to use in the three-day match at Pune against the Railways preceding this Test. Hinds had given indications in that match of his form and today's essay was an emphatic statement on his progress as a batsman who could be trusted to deliver. And he did it with a quality knock.

The West Indies skipper Carl Hooper had promised improvement in the ranks and the revival was scripted by the openers as they produced a rousing 172-run partnership which should give the West Indians the platform to make a match of it.

The West Indies, after play began half-an-hour earlier to make up for the lost time of the first day, may have erred in allowing the Indian tail to thrive this morning when the home team resumed at 275 for six but Hinds and Gayle distinguished themselves with a disciplined performance. If only the West Indians had learnt the lessons earlier in the series, this match in particular, might have been livelier.

Indian seamers disappoint

The lanky Gayle showed the way with the right blend of strokes. His task was made easier by the seamers as Ashish Nehra bowled with restraint in three spells, while Srinath failed to make up his mind on the line to probe in two spells.

Patience was the mantra to excel on this pitch, a typical Eden Gardens track full of runs for batsmen willing to graft. Gayle and Hinds had a point to prove when they walked out. The team needed a good start to enable the innings take the right shape if the West Indians were intent on playing for pride as Hooper had announced on the eve of the match.

The flawless batsmanship of Gayle and Hinds was a test that the Indian bowlers failed to counter. The day's play also highlighted the impact Sir Viv Richards had made on the young West Indian minds. He had been speaking to the team on various aspects of batting approach in the sub-continent and especially on slow tracks. The West Indians appeared to have learnt the lessons, as they preferred to wait for the ball. Once this adjustment was made they had a good measure of the attack and things fell into places for Gayle and Hinds.

Gayle, who later wisely preferred playing the second fiddle, excelled in executing the drives and his confidence grew from watching Hinds pick the ball with ease and place it beyond the fielders. Their impeccable shot-selection played a crucial part as Gayle and Hinds employed the sweep to profit immensely.

Plenty of strokes square of the wicket suggested a decline in the line and length that the Indians explored in trying to induce a false stroke or two. But the openers had made up their mind not to indulge in any adventure and it was just the tonic the visiting team needed after being subjected to widespread lashing for their abysmal show in the Tests at Mumbai and Chennai.

Hinds has been the pick of the batsmen thus far in the match. His runs came from a wide range of strokes, which did highlight his penchant to whip the ball with ease on the onside. He, however, fell to a casual sweep but he had done his job till that critical moment. His dismissal caused a minor collapse when Ramnaresh Sarwan was stumped brilliantly by Patel and nightwatchman Mervyn Dillon was foxed by a faster one, but Gayle's presence was a comforting thought for the West Indians.

Indian tail to the fore

Earlier, the Indian innings was given a much-desired thrust by the tail, especially through veteran Javagal Srinath and young Parthiv Patel. Their 73-run stand carried the team to a position from where it could dictate with Srinath enjoying his batting for a change.

He clouted the ball around the park and prospered in the company of Patel who made the most of an attack, which grew wayward with every over.

The new-ball opened the floodgates for the West Indies, as Srinath launched a blistering attack with some straight-bat shots, including a six off Cuffy. The diminutive Patel did not let the opportunity go waste.

After Harbhajan was beaten by pace, Srinath and Patel adopted the best way to defy the West Indians — preferring to play the shots. The Srinath-Patel association saved India from embarrassment as it lost the last three wickets in quick succession.

Play on Friday begins at 9:10 a.m., 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled start.

SCOREBOARD

INDIA — 1st innings:
S. Bangar c W. Hinds b Cuffy77
(319m, 197b, 13x4)
V. Sehwag lbw b Dillon35
(49m, 34b, 6x4)
R. Dravid lbw b Powell14
(35m, 19b, 1x4)
S. Tendulkar c Gayle b Lawson36
(84m, 65b, 7x4)
S. Ganguly c Jacobs b Hooper29
(68m, 44b, 5x4)
V.V.S. Laxman c Gayle b Dillon48
(121m, 84b, 8x4)
P. Patel c Chanderpaul b Lawson47
(117m, 87b, 6x4)
Harbhajan Singh b Cuffy6
(15m, 11b)
J. Srinath c Hooper b Dillon46
(79m, 40b, 7x4, 1x6)
A. Kumble lbw b Powell4
(26m, 22b)
A. Nehra (not out)0
(3m, 2b)
Extras (lb-7, nb-8, w-1)16
— —
Total 358
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-49 (Sehwag), 2-72 (Dravid), 3-116 (Tendulkar), 4-165 (Ganguly), 5-242 (Bangar), 6-271 (Laxman), 7-280 (Harbhajan), 8-353 (Patel), 9-358 (Srinath). West Indies bowling: Dillon 22-3-82-3 (nb-2), Cuffy 25-4-84-2 (nb-5, w-1), Lawson 20-3-76-2, Powell 16.2-4-62-2 (nb-1), Hooper 15-5-3-1, Gayle 2-0-6-0, Sarwan 1-0-5-0.
WEST INDIES — 1st innings:
C. Gayle (batting)80
(297m, 196b, 14x4)
W. Hinds c Ganguly b Harbhajan100
(251m, 201b, 16x4)
R. Sarwan st Patel b Harbhajan2
(32m, 22b)
M. Dillon b Harbhajan0
(3m, 2b)
S. Chanderpaul (batting)1
(9m, 5b)
Extras (lb-1, nb-5)6
— —
Total (for three wkts.)189
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-172 (Hinds), 2-186 (Sarwan), 3-186 (Dillon). India bowling: Srinath 6-2-26-0 (nb-5), Nehra 13-8-24-0, Harbhajan 24-9-43-3, Kumble 19-1-73-0, Bangar 6-3-14-0, Tendulkar 3-0-8-0.
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