Brathwaite, Athanaze make India labour on attritional third day

SUMMARY: India 438 all out from 128 overs (Virat Kohli 121, Rohit Sharma 80, Ravindra Jadeja 61, Ravichandran Ashwin 56; Jomel Warrican 3-89, Kemar Roach 3-104) vs West Indies 229-5 from 108 overs (Kraigg Brathwaite 75, Alick Athanaze 37*, Tagenarine Chanderpaul 33, Kirk McKenzie 32; Ravindra Jadeja 2-37)

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India’s attack toiled away on a placid Port-of-Spain pitch, taking just four wickets on a rain-interrupted third day of the second and final Test on Saturday.

In reply to India’s 438, West Indies managed 229-5 at just over two runs an over at stumps, raising their hopes of a draw.

Kraigg Brathwaite led West Indies’ stubborn resistance, with 75 off 235 balls, before India’s spinners and Mohammed Siraj exposed their lower-middle order.

In the morning, India’s debutant Mukesh Kumar first snagged West Indies’ debutant Kirk McKenzie for 32 off 57 balls before rain forced an early lunch. R Ashwin then breached the strong defences of Brathwaite in a 15-over shift post lunch.

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R Ashwin landed a stock off-break on the footmarks and bowled Brathwaite through the gate with a heady cocktail of loop, drift and turn.

Brathwaite had looked immovable until Ashwin dislodged him in his 26th over. Ashwin, however, had been building up to this dismissal in a marathon spell by scrambling Brathwaite’s judgment with drift in particular.

Ravindra Jadeja, too, applied pressure on West Indies’ batters and ended Jermaine Blackwood‘s vigil from over the wicket.

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Jadeja extracted turn and bounce from that angle, but the dismissal was made possible by a stunning one-handed catch from Ajinkya Rahane at slip. Despite being blinded by wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, who deflected the ball off his glove, Rahane held on to the ball in a sensational play.

The first session was anything but sensational. The wet weather allowed only 10.4 overs on the third morning in which West Indies scored 31 for the loss of McKenzie.

After having started the day on 37, Brathwaite got to his 29th half-century – his second slowest in Test cricket – in the post-lunch session. He tiptoed to the landmark off 170 balls. His slowest fifty had come off 174 balls against Bangladesh in North Sound last year.

Brathwaite is as old school as one can get these days. He has played nearly 200 First-Class matches, but is yet to feature in an official T20. When Mukesh hung the ball up outside off, Brathwaite refused to catch the bait.

Then when Mukesh straightened his lines and targeted the stumps, with twin short midwickets and a short square leg in place, Brathwaite defended stoutly. He also dead-batted Siraj and the spinners before Ashwin whipped up his magic.

Blackwood laboured to 20 off 92 balls, but Alick Athanaze batted with more freedom, picking Ashwin away for back-to-back fours. Ashwin and Jadeja slowed him down in the final session, which was also interrupted by rain and bad light, but he held them off with his defensive technique.

Local lad Joshua Da Silva hung around with him in a 30-run partnership for the fifth wicket before Siraj castled him with his wobble-seam delivery that swerved in like a fast off-cutter.

Jason Holder then got his eye in with a square-driven four off Siraj and gave Athanaze decent company until stumps.

McKenzie had played more attractive strokes on the third morning before rain intervened. He punched Jaydev Unadkat for consecutive fours, which might have done his hero and fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle proud.

It forced Unadkat to dig the ball into the pitch, but McKenzie was ready on the back foot to pull him for four more. Mukesh had McKenzie wafting behind for 32 off 57 balls for his first Test and 150th First-Class wicket.

It was just reward for Mukesh for having plugged away on a good length outside off. Perhaps, this was the reason why India had picked him ahead of Navdeep Saini after Shardul Thakur had been sidelined from this Test with a groin niggle.

Mukesh came back into the attack to take the second new ball, and though he found some swing, he couldn’t make another breakthrough. (ESPNcricinfo)

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