ROSEAU (Dominica): Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni top-scored with an unbeaten 65 in a strong batting show as India strengthened their position in the third Test against the West Indies by taking a healthy 104-run lead on the third day on Friday.
As many as four visiting batsmen scored fifties as India, resuming at eight for no loss, ended the day at 308/6 while replying to hosts’ 204 all out.
Dhoni shared 103-run sixth wicket stand with Suresh Raina (50) and made sure that the good work of opener Abhinav Mukund (62), VVS Laxman (56) Virat Kohli (30) does not go waste.
West Indies, deprived of services of Ravi Rampaul and handicapped by a hobbling Darren Sammy, never quite wilted under a scorching sun and on a flat pitch on a day when 94 overs were bowled at Windsor Park.
Nearly 90 overs were lost on the first two days of the match due to poor light and rain but no such problem emerged on Friday.
India lost two early wickets of Murali Vijay (1) and Rahul Dravid (5) but thereafter steadily mounted their total without ever dominating a depleted attack.
Dhoni, played his first innings of substance of tour, and when on 52 completed 3000 runs in Test cricket in the 86th innings of his 57th Test.
The Indian captain has so far batted for 157 minutes and struck three fours from 109 balls. He walked in when India were frittering away the advantage, losing three wickets in the afternoon to nothing balls.
Mukund, Kohli and Laxman were all guilty of poor judgment as the visitors lost three wickets in the middle session.
Mukund had serenely moved to his top Test score of 62 when he shaped to play a rising leg-spin from Bishoo towards mid-wicket but only edged it on to his pads and the lobbed chance was gratefully accepted by Adrian Barath at forward short leg.
Kohli seemed intent on making up for his lost chances of the series and had reached 30 without much ado but poked at a harmless delivery from Sammy down the leg-side and was brilliantly caught low by wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh.
Laxman’s dismissal was a freak one when he allowed a leg-spin delivery from Shivnarine Chanderpaul to go to Baugh but his backfoot lost contact with the ground for just a fraction of second, which was enough for the keeper to whip off the bails.
Laxman was flabbergasted but there was little doubt that it was his own carelessness which had did him in. He shared a 84-run stand for the third wicket with Mukund and added 52 for the next wicket with Kohli.
Mukund batted for 176 minutes and hit five fours from 149 balls while Laxman handled 129 balls in 207 minutes, caressing three boundaries.
Dhoni, in the company of Raina, then put his head down and began rebuilding the innings with singles and twos.
There was never any temptation to throw their bats at a wilting attack, or at least cart the leg-spin of Chanderpaul around the park, as the two showed intent to build a sizeable lead over West Indies.
Their stand occupied the most of final session and raised 100 runs in 113 minutes from 182 balls.
Raina showed uncharacteristic restraint and reached his half-century from 131 minutes of batting, hitting three fours from 103 balls.
West Indies struck with the second new ball straightaway when Fidel Edwards won a leg before shout against Raina.
The young left-hander batted for 134 minutes and struck three from 103 balls. His half-century has now made him the top scorer from either side for the series. He now has 224 runs while Dravid has 217 runs.
There was no further joy for West Indies but for the emergence of Rampaul from the dressing room as Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh (12) helped India reach their first 300-plus score of the series.
Earlier in the day, India lost Vijay (1) and Dravid (5) within the first five overs to be 18 for two before normalcy was restored.
Vijay was nearly bowled off a low full toss in Edwards’ first over, squeezing the ball between the slip cordon for a four, but his tendency to push at the ball once again proved his undoing.
In Edwards’ next over, a delivery took the edge of his bat on way to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh’s gloves.
The Tamil Nadu opener is in the middle of a wretched run of scores, the sequence of his five innings in the series reading 8, 0, 11, 3 and 1.
Dravid then fell to Sammy, making the normally passive West Indian captain roar in triumph as he has not done at any stage in this series.
Dravid played for an away movement at the delivery which kept coming straight and went between bat and pad to rattle the stumps.(PTI)