KINGSTON: India were firmly in control of the first cricket Test against the West Indies after former captain Rahul Dravid’s resolute hundred helped them set the hosts a stiff victory target of 326 on the third day of the match here.
West Indies made a jittery start to the chase, reaching 131 for three at stumps yesterday.
An intriguing battle is on cards as the match is expected to be decided on fourth day itself with West Indies requiring 195 runs and visitors needing another seven wickets.
Darren Bravo (30 batting) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (24 batting) added 51 runs for the undefeated fourth wicket stand after the Caribbeans were reduced to 80 for three.
The West Indian openers Adrian Barath (38, 36 balls, 4×4, 2×6) and Lendl Simmons (27, 41 balls, 3×4, 1×6) started put together a whirlwind 62 runs in 10.5 overs.
Barath, in particular, was in Twenty20 mode as he hit Ishant Sharma for a couple of sixes and four in one over before Praveen Kumar made him flash at an away going delivery to be caught by Suresh Raina at slips.
Next man in, Ramnaresh Sarwan (0) was snapped up brilliantly by Virat Kohli off Ishant Sharma. Simmons was beaten by a delivery that held its line to hit the off-stump.
The day, however, belonged to Dravid, who notched up his 32nd career hundred.
His effort of 112 (274 balls, 10×4, 1×6) had its worth weight in gold as the battle-hardened veteran brought up one of his most satisfying three-figure marks on a track where batting was difficult.
Dravid was the last man to be dismissed after nearly six and half hour vigil as he tried hit Devendra Bishoo (4/65) out of the park.
The wicket was a two-paced one where the other top-order batsmen struggled for survival.
But the 38-year-old former India captain was a picture of confidence as he brought up his hundred in 252 balls when he jabbed a Fidel Edwards delivery to scamper home for a single.
Amit Mishra (28, 60 balls, 4×4), whose sensible batting at the other end helped Dravid reach his individual milestone, also deserved credit.
The duo added 56 runs for the ninth wicket after Harbhajan Singh (5) and Praveen Kumar (0) departed early after lunch with India reeling at 183 for eight.
When Mishra departed at 239, India had stretched their lead past 300 which looked to be a formidable one considering the nature of the track.
Dravid showed that when the circumstances are adverse, there is no substitute to watertight technique and concentration.
The effort was even more laudable as he displayed a lot of gumption while batting with the tail.
This is Dravid’s fourth century against the West Indies, and he has now surpassed 1500 runs against the Caribbeans.
If the first session belonged to the West Indies who pegged India back with triple strikes of Virat Kohli (15), Suresh Raina (27) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (16), the post lunch session till tea was all about Dravid’s patience and Mishra trying to counter attack.
Starting the day at 91 for three, India reached 166 for six at lunch with Dhoni dismissed at stroke of lunch.
The Indian captain should consider himself unlucky as Bishoo had overstepped during the delivery.
During the post-lunch session, Harbhajan Singh (5) curbed his natural instincts to play shots and dropped anchor at one end.
However, a debatable decision from umpire Daryl Harper saw him back in the hut. The delivery from Sammy hit him on the left thigh and was clearly heading over the stumps.
Sammy then picked up Praveen Kumar (0) as he played an ugly hoick when the situation demanded some discretion.
But then Mishra joined Dravid which could well prove to be the decisive partnership of the match.
A cautious Dravid tried to shield him initially by refusing singles early in overs but it didn’t take him long to develop trust on Mishra who even looked good against the second new-ball.
Dravid was on 80 when Mishra joined him but the pair frustrated the hosts immensely and stretched the lead beyond 300 runs.
Once Dravid reached his hundred, Mishra hit a spanking cover drive as if to celebrate the feat of his senior. It also followed with a solid square cut as the West Indians got increasingly frustrated.
Dravid first played a risky shot after completing his ton. It was a straight six off Bishoo. However, Mishra perished while trying to slash Sammy in the third man region.
Ishant Sharma started off with a cover driven boundary. He could have been Sammy’s fifth victim but a stiff return catch was just out of reach for the West Indian captain.
It was Bishoo who finally got his seventh victim of the match when Dravid tried an uncharacteristic ugly hoick that was easily caught by Ramnaresh Sarwan.
It was an effort that saw him get standing ovation from his teammates.(PTI)