NEW DELHI: India had their nose ahead after they safely negotiated the West Indies bowlers on a tricky pitch to move to 152 for two and inch closer to the victory target of 276 in the first cricket Test here today.
Tamil Nadu off-spinner Ravichandran Aswhin had vindicated his selection into the Test side with a five-for on debut, before Virender Sehwag (55 off 55 balls) provided the impetus to India’s innings with a typically aggressive knock, to leave the hosts within 124 runs from a victory on the third day.
At stumps, a resolute Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were batting on 30 and 33 respectively. The duo’s unbroken third-wicket partnership has yielded 57 runs so far.
Seeking to score a record 100th international ton, Tendulkar today completed 15,000 runs in this form of the game when he pushed Devendra Bishoo towards extra cover, and along with Dravid, would look to ensure that Ashwin’s superlative effort of six for 47 doesn’t go in vain when India resume their innings tomorrow.
After Aswhin helped the hosts bowl out the visitors for a paltry 180 in their second innings, Sehwag along with Gautam Gambhir (22 off 32) started the chase in right earnest, putting on 51 runs in less than 10 overs. During his 80-minute stay at the crease, Sehwag delighted a turnout of 14,422 as well as he can with his pyrotechnics.
After Gambhir flicked Fidel Edwards to deep square-leg boundary to start India’s run chase, Sehwag launched into a booming straight drive off the same bowler. He followed that by whipping Edwards to the deep square-leg area.
The Nawab of Najafgarh then punished Marlon Samuels with a six over deep extra cover, before taking on Bishoo, whacking the leg-spinner for a massive six over long-on.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy provided the timely breakthrough by disturbing the Delhi batsman’s timber. It was his second fifty of the match, and 29th overall.
Sehwag was lucky to have survived as he was dropped by Ravi Rampaul in his follow-through just before the tea-break, but West Indies struck at the start of the final session, when Samuels rapped Gambhir on his pads.
Sehwag then added 44 runs for the second wicket before Sammy put the brakes on the former’s innings, to signal the arrival of Tendulkar at the crease.
Earlier, inspired by Pragyan Ojha’s first-innings performance, Ashwin stole the limelight through some smart spin bowling on a treacherous Feroz Shah Kotla track where 27 wickets have gone down in the last two days.
In the process, Ashwin became the seventh Indian to begin his Test career with a five-for, and his match haul nine for 128 is also the second-best for an Indian on debut behind Narendra Hirwani’s 16 for 136, incidentally, against the same opponents, on an underprepared Chennai track back in 1988.
Ashwin, who dismissed opener Kieran Powell late yesterday evening to trigger the slide, deservingly signalled the end of the West Indies innings by having Ravi Rampaul caught at deep midwicket.
Just before Rampaul’s dismissal, the 25-year-old off-spinner from Chennai removed Darren Sammy (42) with his trademark carom ball that skidded off the wicket, hardly giving the West Indian skipper any time to get his bat down.
Chanderpaul’s was the wicket India had been looking for, and Ashwin responded to the team’s needs, though the tail did hung in for a while to frustrate the Indians.
Thanks to Ashwin’s effort, it did not take India more than 42.3 overs on the third day to bowl out the visitors, whose suffered due to a lack of a decent partnership.
That the 40-run stand for the eighth wicket between Chanderpaul and Sammy turned out to be the highest of the innings, showed that the batsmen failed to apply themselves on the tricky pitch.
In the morning, Ashwin, along with another debutant, Umesh Yadav, led a strong Indian fightback by claiming two wickets apiece as West Indies went to lunch at a precarious 109 for seven.
Resuming at overnight 21 for two and with 116 runs ahead, West Indies lost five wickets for an addition of 88 runs to let go of the advantage they claimed by earning a vital 95-run first-innings lead after bowling out India for 209 yesterday.
Chanderpaul was batting on 39 while Sammy was giving him company on eight as West Indies struggled to stretch their overall lead to 204 at the lunch break. Beside off-spinner Aswhin and pacer Yadav’s double blow, pace spearhead Ishant Sharma accounted for one wicket.
Ashwin, who had dismissed Kieran Powell yesterday evening, at that point of time, had figures of three for 21 in 14 overs.
Kirk Edwards started the day on a positive note for the West Indies when he leaned forward to caress Pragyan Ojha through extra cover for a boundary. But Sharma accounted for the wicket of night-watchman Fidel Edwards when he had him caught behind in the day’s third over.
The lanky pacer could have another in the same over but Aswhin, despite a valiant attempt, could not hold on to Darren Bravo’s uppish drive at cover. The drop however, did not prove to be a big miss for India as Ashwin made amends by sending Bravo back with a tossed-up ball that did not turn much, hitting Bravo on the pads.
It took Ashwin just four balls to send back Marlon Samuels who was bemused by the bowler’s trademark carrom ball.
After drawing the batsman forward the ball turned away on landing, disturbing the off-stump. Yadav meanwhile, after a none-too-impressive outing in the first innings, was putting in a lot more effort. And it bore fruit when he dislodged Kirk Edwrads’ off-stump after the batsman decided to shoulder arm, for his maiden Test wicket. Edwards scored 33 off 80 deliveries, and found the fence four times.
The Vidarbha pacer then had wicketkeeper-batsman Carlton Baugh when he induced a thick edge through to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.(PTI)