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VOL.34 :: NO.29 :: Jul. 21, 2011

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CRICKET / THIRD TEST/INDIA V WEST INDIES

India fails to go for the kill

Dhoni & his men needed 86 more runs from 90 deliveries to become the first Indian team to win two Tests in a series in the Caribbean. At the beginning of the chase, India required 180 runs in 47 overs. Despite the pitch playing sluggish — the ball was not coming on to the bat — it was an achievable total. But the visitor decided to settle for a draw. By S. Dinakar.

AP

Kirk Edwards (right) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul batted West Indies out of trouble in the second innings.

The series concluded unexpectedly. When the players trooped off the field, not many in the crowd actually realised what was happening. The spectators — it was a packed house at Dominica's Windsor Park on the final day — were gearing up for a rousing finish to an eventful Test that had survived the inclement weather to offer gripping cricket till that point.

At first many believed the cricketers were off for an unscheduled drinks break. Then, it gradually sank in. Both the captains had agreed for a draw before the start of first of the 15 mandatory overs. Dhoni's men needed 86 more runs from 90 deliveries to become the first Indian team to win two Tests in a series in the Caribbean. At the beginning of the chase, India required 180 runs in 47 overs. Despite the pitch playing sluggish — the ball was not coming on to the bat — it was an achievable total.

Under the circumstances, India abandoning the pursuit was disappointing. The top-ranked side in world cricket needed to show greater aggression.

India won the three-Test series 1-0 but it was the relieved West Indians who were celebrating. They lapped the ground as the crowd cheered on. The overwhelming feeling was that India could have at least made a honest attempt. All that the side needed was two good overs and the pressure would have been on the West Indians. Had the Indians got to within 30-odd runs of the target, the host might have panicked.

The West Indian captain Darren Sammy said: “We were surprised. We thought with guys like Dhoni left, India would go for it.”

India was not innovative either. For instance, Harbhajan Singh could have been promoted in the order with orders to go after the bowling. Nothing of the sort happened. The Indians settled for a tame end instead. The man selling popcorn outside the media box was not lacking in humour. “Your men chickened out man,” he said.

With Rahul Dravid holding one end firm, the Indians could have gone after the bowling from the other. If the side had lost a couple of more wickets in the process, it could have shut shop. Given that only 15 overs were left, there was virtually no danger of India losing. Despite being 1-0 down, the West Indians were always playing for a draw after being dismissed for 204 in the first innings.

On the fifth day, only opener Murali Vijay (45) displayed some intent. He was fluent through covers, cut and whipped the ball with panache. Vijay was dismissed attempting to accelerate the scoring. Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo was not making things any easier for the Indians by operating to a negative outside-the-leg-stump line to the right-handers from round the wicket.

The Indians sent in left-hander Suresh Raina at the fall of the second wicket to take on the leg-spinner. Raina fell early and the Indians soon lost interest in the chase. Coach Duncan Fletcher defended the Indian decision. “It was an easy wicket to survive but a difficult track to score runs quickly. A new batsman had to bat for three or four overs before he could begin to score freely. It was hard to play shots square off the pitch which was a big advantage for the bowlers.”

The first in Dominica — it became the 106th Test venue — will also be remembered for Shivnarine Chanderpaul's defiant unbeaten 116 in the second innings. The veteran left-hander, who became the most capped West Indies player with 133 Tests, celebrated the occasion with an innings of patience and fight.

Picking the line quickly, he left most deliveries outside off-stump and gradually forced the bowlers to change their line. He then milked the bowling.

Chanderpaul was not alone in the fightback after the West Indies, adrift by 143 runs in the first innings, lost its first three batsmen for 40 on day four. Debutant Kirk Edwards responded to the challenge with a rousing 110 of power-packed drives between cover and mid-wicket. The 26-year-old Barbadian also used his feet to dance down to Harbhajan for strokes between the bowler and mid-off.

The lanky Edwards is a good timer of the ball. There is this ease about his batting that compels attention. He also appears someone with the instincts of a fighter. The 161-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Chanderpaul and Edwards gave the West Indies hope.

Then the dogged Fidel Edwards faced 106 deliveries for his 30 as the West Indies stretched its second innings past the lunch break on day five. The 65-run ninth-wicket partnership between Chanderpaul and Fidel Edwards frustrated the Indian attack that lacked the firepower and the imagination to end the association quickly.

Harbhajan Singh became only the fourth spinner in Test history to go past 400 wickets but, as the spin spearhead, the off-spinner was unable to bowl India to victory. He began with an attacking outside the off-stump line and did bowl well to the right-handers from round the wicket. But then, his line, gradually, shifted to middle and leg. And his flight lacked deception.

In the West Indian first innings, Ishant Sharma bowled with heart, intensity and control to pick up five for 77 as the host was dismissed for 204. The stylish Darren Bravo and the feisty wicket-keeper batsman Carlton Baugh came up with half centuries. Baugh has made an impression in the series with his smart glove-work and spirited batting.

Then, left-handed opener Abhinav Mukund — he has looked the part in this series — V.V.S. Laxman, Suresh Raina, and skipper Dhoni produced half-centuries enabling India gain a lead of 143.

For the West Indies, the impressive Fidel Edwards scalped five with his combination of lift and reverse swing. The slinger has bowled at impressive speeds. With Ravi Rampaul indisposed, the West Indies was reduced to just three specialist bowlers in the fist innings. The host did not make things easier for India though. “We showed a lot of fight in the Test,” said Sammy. The skipper was right.

THE SCORES

Third Test, Windsor Park, Dominica, July 6-10, 2011. Match drawn.

West Indies — 1st innings: A. Barath b Ishant 12; K. Powell c Laxman b Praveen 3; K. Edwards c Dhoni b Ishant 6; D. M. Bravo c Dhoni b Ishant 50; S. Chanderpaul c Dhoni b Munaf 23; M. Samuels b Praveen 9; C. Baugh b Harbhajan 60; D. Sammy c Mukund b Harbhajan 20; F. Edwards b Ishant 3; R. Rampaul (not out) 0; D. Bishoo b Ishant 0; Extras (b-8, lb-10) 18. Total: 204.

Fall of wickets:1-17, 2-24, 3-35, 4-84, 5-99, 6-158, 7-199, 8-200, 9-204.

India bowling: Praveen 16-7-22-2; Ishant 21.3-4-77-5; Munaf 20-7-48-1; Harbhajan 15-7-26-2; Raina 4-1-13-0.

India — 1st innings: A. Mukund c Barath b Bishoo 62; M. Vijay c Baugh b F. Edwards 5; R. Dravid b Sammy 5; V. V. S. Laxman st. Baugh b Chanderpaul 56; V. Kohli c Baugh b Sammy 30; S. Raina lbw b F. Edwards 50; M. Dhoni c Bishoo b F. Edwards 74; Harbhajan Singh c Baugh b F. Edwards 12; Praveen Kumar c Samuels b Bishoo 23; Ishant Sharma c Barath b F. Edwards 2; Munaf Patel (not out) 4; Extras (b-8, lb-3, w-3, nb-10) 24. Total: 347.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-116, 4-168, 5-172, 6-275, 7-308, 8-339, 9-343.

West Indies bowling: F. Edwards 28.2-3-103-5; Sammy 28-7-51-2; Bishoo 38-2-125-2; K. Edwards 4-0-19-0; Chanderpaul 10-0-38-1.

West Indies — 2nd innings: A. Barath c Kohli b Praveen 6; K. Powell c Raina b Ishant 4; K. Edwards c Dhoni b Harbhajan 110; D. M. Bravo c Praveen b Harbhajan 14; S. Chanderpaul (not out) 116; M. Samuels lbw b Harbhajan 0; C. Baugh c Mukund b Praveen 10; D. Sammy c Mukund b Harbhajan 17; R. Rampaul (run out) 1; F. Edwards c Praveen b Raina 30; D. Bishoo c Dravid b Raina 1; Extras (b-8, lb-2, w-1, nb-2) 13. Total: 322.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-10, 3-40, 4-201, 5-201, 6-223, 7-255, 8-256, 9-321.

India bowling: Praveen 21-6-44-2; Ishant 27-5-76-1; Munaf 24-5-71-0; Harbhajan 42-14-75-4; Raina 15.3-2-32-2; Mukund 2-0-14-0.

India — 2nd innings: A. Mukund lbw b F. Edwards 0; M. Vijay c Bishoo b Rampaul 45; R. Dravid (not out) 34; S. Raina c & b Rampaul 8; V. V. S. Laxman (not out) 3; Extras (lb-1, nb-3) 4. Total (for three wkts.) 94.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-73, 3-86.

West Indies bowling: F. Edwards 8-1-19-1; Rampaul 11-2-31-2; Sammy 5-0-26-0; Bishoo 8-1-17-0.



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