Half-centuries from V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid put India in a formidable position in the rain-hit second Test against West Indies on Friday.
Laxman was unbeaten on 72 – his second half-century in the match – and Dravid was dismissed for 55, as the Indians reached 229 for three in their second innings for an overall lead of 240 on the rain-affected fourth day.
Laxman and Dravid, the visitors’ most decorated batsman, featured in three half-century stands that fortified the World No.1 Test team’s position.
Dravid added 63 for the second wicket with opener Abhinav Mukund, and put on 65 for the third wicket with Laxman, who then shared an unbroken stand of 75 with Virat Kohli before the close.
Dravid, a century-maker in the first Test, reached his 50 from 157 balls, driving Fidel Edwards through mid-off for a deuce in the first over after tea.
But he fell in the fifth over after the break, when he top-edged a cut at a short, rising ball outside the off-stump from Edwards, and was caught behind. He struck just three boundaries from 171 deliveries in close to four hours.
When he departed, Laxman took control, reaching his 50 from 120 balls, sweeping leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo behind square leg for two.
He was fortunate on 69 however, when West Indies captain Darren Sammy dropped a return catch in the last hour.
Laxman however, perservered, and his near four-hour long innings contained six fours from 171 balls.
He and Kohli, not out on 26, batted through the final two hours of the day to ensure that India enhanced their chances of wrapping up their second straight Test series victory in the Caribbean.
Dravid and Laxman had started to beef up the Indians’ lead, carrying them to 143 for two at tea.
The two batsmen drew upon their vast experience to consolidate their side’s position, after Mukund, playing in his second Test, fell in the first hour after lunch for 48, gloving a snorter from Edwards.
India had reached 62 for one at lunch, after play started 50 minutes later than regularly scheduled.
The Indians resumed on their overnight total of 23 without loss, but opener Murali Vijay departed in the second full over of the day, when he was caught behind for three off Ravi Rampaul, edging an unplayable delivery that moved away sharply.
Mukund and Dravid started to blossom, following a circumspect start against a West Indies attack that continued to exploit the lively Kensington Oval pitch.
Mukund drove West Indies captain Darren Sammy through mid-off for his second boundary to get into stride, and Dravid steered a delivery from Edwards between third slip and the gully for his first four.
Dravid however, had an anxious wait on nine, when he turned a delivery from Sammy to mid-wicket, and fielder Adrian Barath claimed a low catch, diving forward.
But a consultation between on-field umpire Asad Rauf and TV umpire Gregory Brathwaite gave Dravid a reprieve.
India are also looking to create a piece of history by becoming the first Indian side to win a Test and One-day International series in the Caribbean – but they will also have to overcome their poor history here.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team still have cause for optimism though – following a 10-wicket defeat for Sourav Ganguly’s side nine years ago, West Indies have lost six of the next eight Tests they have played at this venue.(AFP)