West Indies suffer familiar calypso collapse
On Thursday, the third day of the St Lucia Test, India saw rain wash a whole day’s play out, with runs having been scored at about 2.5 an over on the first two days, with the bowlers’ last memory of having taken a wicket 79.2 overs ago.
By the end of the play on Saturday, the fifth day, India had taken 17 wickets in 63.5 overs to complete an incredible Test and series win, a win borne as much out of belief and intent as out of West Indies’ lack of resistance after what hopefully wasn’t a false down in Jamaica.
India began day five believing they could still win; West Indies did nothing to make India doubt it. After Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s swing masterclass left India 285 in lead at the end of the fourth day, India quickly ran away to 60 runs in nine overs to leave West Indies with no chance of winning and 87 overs to survive.
That was a big difference between Jamaica and St Lucia: there one counterattack put the hosts within sight of parity and gave them direction, here they didn’t know where to go. Feet stopped moving, brains got muddled, plans went absent, and India stayed relentless. The victory, the first time India won two Tests in a series outside Asia since 2005 and the first time ever in the West Indies, arrived before tea.
The gulf in the class and awareness between the teams was glaring on the fifth day. It began with awareness and intent. India knew the outfield was slow, they knew they were short on time, so they came out running runs as if in street cricket. Tip and run, runs to slip, second runs with the ball in the fielder’s hand, thirds because of panicked throws and poor backing-up, India almost literally stole these runs from under West Indies’ noses.
A six-wicket haul for Miguel Cummins as the batsmen went after the bowling was the only silver lining on a dark day for West Indies cricket. Ajinkya Rahane, not surprisingly, top-scored with an unbeaten 78. Then came the question of class. West Indies still had only 87 overs to survive on a pretty reliable surface.
Except that the batting was not reliable. Coming into this innings having lost their last seven first-innings wickets in 16.2 overs, West Indies needed a solid start. It wasn’t to be. On a new-ball pitch, the India quicks were soon going to be all over them. This was going to call for gumption, especially if West Indies lost a wicket early on. Which they duly did, with new opener Leon Johnson fending Mohammed Shami to short leg.
Bhuvneshwar, who had cracked the game open with a quick five-for on day four, then had Kraigg Brathwaite – not the only West Indies batsman who prefers to stay back – with a really full delivery. The inswinger held its line a little, Brathwaite played across its line and was caught dead plumb.
With openers gone in the fifth over, there was extra responsibility on the most experienced West Indies batsmen, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo. Samuels couldn’t have played a more irresponsible innings.
Samuels went from fasting to sugar rush betraying no sense of plan or direction to his batting. He faced the first 12 balls of his innings responsibly, avoiding the short-pitch barrage nicely.
With no run to his name, and no intent to score any until then, out of nowhere he looked for a lofted off drive to the 13th ball he faced. Having survived that rush of blood, having scored his first run off the 21st ball he faced, Samuels got two half-volleys from R Ashwin, boundaries off which should have settled down nerves.
Samuels, though, went on a hitting spree. He was lucky he mistimed his next big shot, an attempted loft with a long-on in place. This one fell short, but Samuels, having been dormant for the first half of the innings, struggled to calm himself down. The feet didn’t move, the bat went high, an inswinger from Ishant Sharma burst through the gate and sent the off stump on a cartwheel.
Three wickets had been lost in 13.2 overs, but Roston Chase and Bravo batted more sensibly and saw West Indies through to lunch. Post lunch Ishant produced the delivery of the innings to remove the centurion from Jamaica, Chase. India had got their act together for Chase, bowling fuller than they did in Jamaica, giving him less time to recover should there be any misbehaviour off the pitch. This one misbehaved massively, seaming back in from a full length to take the off stump out.
Jermaine Blackwood’s attacking ways were less likely to work here; India had anyway cut off his runs by not bowling in his zone. A frustrated big drive – trying to save a Test with parity nowhere in sight – brought an on-the-line stumping, and half the side was gone even before the ball became old and settled down.
After about the 30th over, the pitch settled down a little. The edges began to die, as R Ashwin found out with Bravo who reached his first fifty in eight innings. The seam movement ceased. A main batsman would have found this period easier to negotiate, but Shane Dowrich fell to a disciplined spell from Shami, who followed on from a seven-over interrogation by Bhuvneshwar. Jason Holder ran himself out, and with the tail in the middle it was just a consolation that West Indies managed to cross 100 and didn’t succumb to their lowest total against India. (ESPNCricinfo)
Cover photo caption: Marlon Samuels’ stump goes for a walk