TEST: Rahane, Pant quell Windies’ inroads

SUMMARY: India 308 for 4 (Pant 85*, Rahane 75*) trail West Indies 311 (Chase 106, Holder 52, Umesh 6-88, Kuldeep 3-85) by 3 runs

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For the first time in the series, West Indies managed to put India under pressure. But Ajinkya Rahane and Prithvi Shaw bailed them out of a spot of bother, not without the help of lackluster fielding.

India ended the day just three behind West Indies’ 311, with six wickets in hand. They will be glad they came out unscathed when trouble came almost unannounced.

It had been a whirlwind day – Umesh Yadav took the three remaining West Indies in half an hour, Prtivhi Shaw smacked 70 off 53 balls – but at 102 for 3 and 162 for 4, they were not too far from disaster.

Ajinkya Rahane punches through the off side © AFP

It was an important innings for Rahane, who had struggled in the last home season too, and paid the price with his place in the first XI in South Africa. He was not at his best – he prefers quicker pitches – but he battled through, waiting for the bad balls and accelerating gradually.

He was helped by Pant’s attacking intent, and the easy drop by substitute wicket-keeper Jahmar Hamilton when Pant was on 24 and India on 196 for 4. He had been streaky until then, but after the reprieve he didn’t look back.

Another man who didn’t look back was Umesh. He continued with his modus operandi of attacking the stumps to register his best bowling figures, 6 for 88. It was his second five-for in Tests, and the first haul of six or more wickets by an India fast bowler at home since 1999. He will also be on a hat-trick in the second innings, having dismissed Roston Chase and Shannon Gabriel with successive deliveries to end the West Indies innings.

Umesh began the day with a played-on dismissal of Devendra Bishoo. Chase, on 98 overnight, then brought up the first hundred for a West Indies batsman in India since 2011, but failed to negotiate one that seamed past his inside edge and into the stumps. Umesh then bowled the rare outswinger to get the edge from Gabriel. Four of his six victims were either bowled or lbw.

West Indies could add only 16 to their overnight 295 for 7. Fifteen of those were struck off in the first over itself, with Shaw severe on any width given to him.

They are asking everybody not to compare him with Virender Sehwag just yet, but the similarities in the batting style are all there. The high back lift, the tendency to stay beside the line, the ability to cut, and the solid defence when the ball is within the stumps. His slog sweep off the left-arm spin of Jomel Warrican was almost a photo copy of Sehwag’s slog sweep.

Roston Chase celebrates reaching his century © Associated Press

All the intent brought Shaw 11 fours and a six. He was hit on the pad once, didn’t miss a single ball outside off, and edged only one ball before his dismissal: a half-chance that slip couldn’t catch. Eventually, he went out driving Warrican, unable to keep it down.

Pretty soon, Cheteshwar Pujara stabbed at a wide length ball from Gabriel, repeating the mode of dismissal from the last Test, which is pretty rare for Pujara. That KL Rahul was bowled cheaply again – taking his bowled and lbw dismissals against pace to 50% – will be a matter of concern to India.

Virat Kohli and Rahane then buckled down to add 60, before the inspirational captain Jason Holder came back to trap Kohli with a perfect inswinger, a mode of dismissal that was with him in South Africa and England too.
The stage was now set for West Indies to string together tight overs, and play on Rahane’s circumspection and Pant’s patience. However, the fielders repeatedly released the pressure.

To be fair to them, the outfield was a little bumpy, but international sides manage to make adjustments. It didn’t help that Holder, who missed the last Test with injury, was on and off the field in the last session, bowling only three overs.

Pant had edged Holder early, past second slip. His next interrogation was from Roston Chase. Pant showed signs again – as he had in England – that he might struggle to rotate strike when under pressure. After a string of dot balls, he took the chance and took on long-off, managing to hit the aerial shot wide of him. Then, Gabriel drew the edge on the cut. But Hamilton couldn’t hold on to a sitter.

Once let off, Pant went on to display the virtues of his batting, his intent putting bowlers under extreme pressure, resulting in more and more loose balls. Rahane waited patiently for these, hitting his first boundary off spin only after he had scored 61 runs.

Pant, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to lace the spinners, hitting them for seven fours and two successive sixes off the left-arm spin of Worrican. Having added 146 for the fifth wicket, they were both approaching centuries. (ESPN Cricinfo)

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