Kohli, Rahane swell India’s lead in Antigua
Unbeaten half-centuries from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane helped India take firm control of the first Test against West Indies in North Sound. By the end of the third day, India were 185-3, Kohli batting on 51 and Rahane on 53 with the overall lead swelling to 260. The two had joined hands just before tea and continued their association till stumps, adding 104 for the fourth wicket.
Earlier in the day, West Indies were bowled out for 222, 75 behind India’s first-innings total of 297. India had to negotiate a tricky seven-over period before lunch but KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal ensured they went into the break without any damage.
When the teams returned, West Indies surprisingly resumed with Roston Chase and Miguel Cummins. While Cummins had to walk off the field temporarily – after bowling just two overs – with some discomfort in his thigh, Chase didn’t disappoint his captain and trapped Agarwal lbw for 16 as the batsman tried to paddle-sweep a fuller delivery. It looked plumb in real time and perhaps that was the reason Rahul suggested not to review it. However, replays showed the ball would have gone on to miss the leg stump.
Rahul looked tentative at the other end, even top-edging a pull off Jason Holder towards fine leg but luckily for him, the ball fell short of the fielder. Cheteshwar Pujara, though, used his feet against Chase right from the start and didn’t let the spinner dictate the terms. Rahul too grew in confidence and played a near-perfect straight drive against Shannon Gabriel before late-cutting Chase for another boundary.
The duo had added 43 for the second wicket before Chase struck once more. Having hit him for a four the previous ball, Rahul tried to sweep the next one fine but missed it completely and was bowled for 38. Twice in the match, Rahul failed to convert a start into something substantial.
In the next over, Kemar Roach castled Pujara with a delivery that seamed back after pitching on a length and sneaked in through the bat-pad gap to hit the top of the off stump. India 81-3.
Kohli and Rahane took the side to tea and soon it started to look like the two were batting without any trouble. But then Roach returned for another burst and produced some more magical deliveries albeit without adding any wickets to his tally. He almost had Rahane when the batsman was on 17. While trying to flick a ball, Rahane closed the face of the bat a bit early but John Campbell spilled the chance in covers.
In his next two overs, Roach beat the outside edge of both Kohli and Rahane but didn’t have luck on his side.
After Roach’s spell, Rahane smashed Gabriel for back-to-back fours, an on-the-up cover drive followed by a ferocious cut. With India’s lead already in excess of 200, West Indies brought spin from both ends in the form of Kraigg Brathwaite and Chase. But with Kohli and Rahane now set, the move made run-scoring even easier.
Holder turned to Roach again before stumps and the bowler almost had Rahane for once more, this time trapping him in front of the stumps but umpire Rod Tucker’s finger didn’t move. West Indies chose not to review the decision but replays showed the ball would have crashed into the middle stump. Rahane, who was on 48 at that time, brought his second fifty of the match in the next over. Kohli soon followed him and reached the landmark with a pulled four off Cummins, just his second boundary of the innings.
The last ball of the day, a fuller one down the leg side by Gabriel which Shai Hope could only partially stop and conceded two byes, told the story of the Test. India were aware to take advantage when West Indies lowered their guard with the Test slipping away from their hands.
In the morning, West Indies resumed from 189-8, their overnight batsmen Holder and Miguel Cummins frustrating India with a 41-run stand for the ninth wicket in which the latter’s contribution was 0.
But once Mohammed Shami dismissed Holder for 39, Cummins went for a big heave against Ravindra Jadeja, only to be bowled for a 45-ball duck. But the main destroyer was Ishant Sharma, who finished with figures of 5-43. On the second evening, West Indies were 174-5 at one stage before Ishant took three wickets in seven balls to reduce them to 179-8.
West Indies’ hopes of getting close to India’s first-innings total of 297 rested on Holder who farmed the strike as much as possible. With two fours in Jasprit Bumrah’s second over of the day, Holder took West Indies past 200. In the pacer’s next over, Holder chipped him wide of mid-on for another boundary.
At the other end, Cummins stuck to his brief of just hanging in there. It wasn’t that India didn’t have a chance to bowl more than a couple of balls at a time at him; Ishant got two successive overs at Cummins. While the seamer kept beating Cummins’ bat, he couldn’t fetch an edge.
Kohli turned to Jadeja in search of the breakthrough. Jadeja too beat Cummins thrice in five balls in his first over of the day but the batsman just focused on protecting his stumps instead of poking at the ball.
Holder and Cummins saw out the first hour of the day with India seemingly growing frustrated. When it finally looked like Cummins had edged one behind the stumps, off Mohammed Shami, the decision was overturned on review as replays showed the bat had hit the turf and not the ball.
But Shami wasn’t to be denied for long. On the first ball of his next over, he got Holder to nick one behind and this time there was no doubt about the edge. (ESPNCricinfo)