Stumps India 203 for 6 (Rahane 81, Rahul 44, Vihari 32, Roach 3-34, Gabriel 2-49) v West Indies

West Indies fought back late on the first day after two half-century stands had taken India to relative safety following a fiery opening spell that had left the visitors at 25 for 3 inside eight overs. Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul led the first fightback with a 68-run stand, and Rahane then put on 82 with Hanuma Vihari as India dominated briefly in the middle session. But Kemar Roach, the architect of the early collapse, returned to cause trouble with the old ball and, alongside opening partner Shannon Gabriel, kept India to 203 for 6 by close of play.

However, the delicious ebb and flow of the game was cut short by the weather. Intermittent rainfall meant a 15-minute delayed start, an early finish to the last two sessions, and, ultimately, only 68.5 overs of play. Left-handers Rishabh Pant (20*) and Ravindra Jadeja (3*), at the back end of India’s elongated batting order for this Test, were unbeaten when the players went off.

The resultant moisture from the rain was what had prompted Jason Holder to elect to bowl, and his bowlers delivered immediately with a superb opening spell. In a largely cloudy first hour, Roach bowled the fullest length and was rewarded for it. With steep climb from a length, he pinned the openers to the crease, and it didn’t take him long to get one of them to poke with hard hands, Mayank Agarwal left with little choice against a ball holding its line after coming in. He got a thin outside edge, as did Cheteshwar Pujara four balls later. India’s No. 3 was rooted to his leg stump guard and pushing away from the body, although based on the off stump line, he too had little choice. Both nicks went to Shai Hope, stand-in wicketkeeper for the injured Shane Dowrich.

While nagging in the corridor did the job for those two, West Indies needed a little more brute force with Virat Kohli. Gabriel had been spliced through point and then driven down the ground by India’s captain, who, as is often the case, had looked the most confident batsman within minutes of arriving. That was until Gabriel’s burst of three consecutive short balls. One had him hopping, one snuck under an early pull to hit him on his right elbow, and against the third, Kohli jabbed away from the body, lobbing one harmlessly for debutant Shamarh Brooks at gully.

Walking in at 25 for 3, Rahane showed immense restraint against a red-hot West Indies pace attack that greeted him with a short one into his midriff. At one point early in the day, Holder even bowled four consecutive maidens to him.

He hung in with Rahul, another Indian batsman with a point to prove, and the pair made it past the opening hour. The two batsmen seemed to have made a concerted effort not to drive away from the body, a decision backing their many straight drives through the day. While not all of these drives produced runs or boundaries on a two-paced pitch, both seemed content to wait it out.

They only gave themselves permission to expand their games in the second session, when the sun was out and there was no swing on offer. The first cover-driven boundaries came during this period.

But, just as he looked like he had set himself up for a big one, Rahul was caught sharply down the leg side by Hope off Roston Chase. Rahul’s disappointment was visible as he walked off. With the chance to make a substantial overseas score gone in somewhat unfortunate circumstances, it wasn’t surprising.

One of the most stirring passages of the day came after tea. After an afternoon of figuring out the pace of the wicket, Rahane and Vihari began aggressively. Off the second over of the session, Rahane dismissed a Chase short ball and set off a ripple that carried into the next 30 minutes, with the two batsmen one would typecast into anchor roles scoring briskly. At one point, the session run rate was over seven per over.

Inside this phase was an over where Miguel Cummins had Vihari edge past second slip, beaten him on the straight drive next ball, and drew an edge that flew over slip off the next one as the batsman looked to cut a short ball. They were possibly the best few minutes of Cummins’ day. The fast bowler struggled to hit consistent lengths and after being too short most of the day, was removed from the attack after his next over when Vihari drilled him down the ground.

But it was this change that eventually paid off. Roach and Gabriel were back bowling in tandem, and Vihari’s aggressive streak led to him opening the face slightly as he tried to defend against Roach and edging to Hope, who took a dipping ball well in front with a dive.

Rahane’s three boundaries in the session had come with horizontal-bat shots, including a picturesque square drive on the rise against Roach. It was perhaps this confidence that led to him chasing Gabriel away from the body, on his toes trying to punch through the covers, but, similar to Kohli, he was through the shot too early as the pitch took some pace off the ball. He chopped on and kept his two-year wait for a Test century going. Rahane did, however, play the kind of innings for which India have continued to back him during his prolonged lull in form.

Share this: