Ishant Sharma’s fifer helped India gain the upper hand on day two of the first Test against the West Indies at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound.
After faltering at 25/3 with both key batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli out in their first innings on day one, the Indians have shown why they’re ranked number one in the world with a superb fight back since.
Things didn’t begin well for the visitors on day two either with wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant falling for just 24. With only Ravindra Jadeja and the three fast bowlers left to bat, the West Indies would have had serious belief of bowling India out for a sub-250 score. Jadeja and co., though, had other ideas.
Ishant is a long way away from being a top batsman, but unlike a lot of other bowlers, he almost always puts a price on his wicket. He doesn’t have a great technique but makes bowlers work hard to take his scalp – a trait other lower-order batsmen can learn.
After Pant’s dismissal, it was Ishant who joined Jadeja in the middle and, once again, the lanky pacer refused to give away his wicket easily. Ishant’s 62-ball stay at the crease saw the eighth-wicket partnership yield 60 runs. And India were right back in the contest after finding themselves 207/7 earlier in the morning.
While Ishant played a gritty hand, Jadeja showed why he is one of the finest three-dimensional cricketers in the world. The Saurashtra all-rounder, whose bowling was his most celebrated attribute during his earlier years in Test cricket, has really come of age with the bat over the past couple of years. His half-century here was his fourth 50+ score in his last eight innings. In fact, since the start of 2018, he averages 52.42 – an excellent number for someone who bats at seven and eight.
Crucially for India, Jadeja’s 58 engineered them to 297. While this was their lowest first innings total against West Indies since 2011, it’s a score they would have undoubtedly taken after the first hour of play on Thursday when they lost those three early wickets.
Kemar Roach was the pick of the bowlers for Jason Holder’s side with figures of 4/66.
In reply, John Campbell began with intent, slamming two boundaries off the first over of the innings. The left-handed batsman’s cameo didn’t last long though as he was bowled by Mohammed Shami for 23.
Meanwhile, at the other hand, Kraigg Brathwaite was his usual self. A false shot percentage of 9.8 (second only to Ajinkya Rahane in this match so far) showed that he was playing a controlled knock without many scoring shots. But before he could make a meaningful contribution, he was walking back to the pavilion after playing a straight drive to Ishant who completed a fab caught-and-bowled.
Debutant Shamarh Brooks and Darren Bravo weren’t able to make big contributions either, getting dismissed for 11 and 18 respectively. Bravo’s Test career is a peculiar case. While the Trinidad batsman averages 51.18 away from home in international red ball cricket, the number is just 27.29 in the West Indies.
When India last toured the West Indies for a Test series, the tour saw the international debut of a young all-rounder named Roston Chase. Aged 24 then, Chase didn’t take long to make an impact at the highest level. In just his second Test, he had notched up a magnificent century on the final day at Kingston, Jamaica to salvage an impressive draw for the hosts.
Following that performance, Chase has been a reliable Test cricketer for the Windies over the last three years. In fact, since 2017, no West Indian batsman has scored more Test runs than him. And on Friday, it looked like Chase would lead the hosts out of trouble.
After coming into bat at 50/3, the Barbados cricketer batted with a sense of assurance. In Tests, he averages almost 50 against spin, and this strong suit was on display here as he hit three fours and a six against Jadeja. But just as he looked set to secure his eighth Test half-century, he was dismissed timidly, playing an on drive straight into the hands of KL Rahul at short mid-wicket. The celebrations from the bowler (Ishant) and captain (Kohli) indicated that it was a planned play against Chase.
Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer also got starts but were dismissed for 24 and 35 respectively. The latter, especially, looked fluent during his stay in the middle and it required a stunning caught-and-bowled from Ishant to send him back to the pavilion. Soon after, the Delhi pacer had Roach caught at slip, to complete his ninth five-wicket haul in Tests. Interestingly, the last three wickets were all executed by bowling cross seam.
A huge source of frustration for the Windies will be the fact that each of their top seven batsmen batted 25+ deliveries, but none stayed at the crease for 75+ deliveries.
At the end of day’s play, the Caribbean side find themselves at 189/8, 108 runs behind India’s first innings total.
India 297 all out (Ajinkya Rahane 81, Ravindra Jadeja 58, Kemar Roach 4/66, Shannon Gabriel 3/71) vs West Indies 189/8 (Roston Chase 48, Shimron Hetmyer 35, Ishant Sharma 5/42).