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Shami special blows West Indies away

Rohit, Ashwin lay platform with record partnership and the bowlers seal the deal, winning inside three days

Shami special blows West Indies away - Cricket News
Mohammad Shami finished a dream debut with nine wickets.
The end was devastatingly swift in coming, West Indies left shell-shocked by the sheer magnificence of the debutant paceman Mohammed Shami, who did everything he could, and more, to reinforce the belief that his first-innings heroics were no flash in the pan. 

That West Indies was up against it had been obvious at the end of Day 2 of the first Test at the Eden Gardens. Once India opened up a 219-run lead on the third morning on Friday (November 8) on the back of R Ashwin’s second Test century and his India record seventh-wicket stand of 280 with Rohit Sharma, it was always a question of when rather than whether.

The Eden surface was far from a minefield, but it was no batting paradise either. Rough patches had been created by the West Indian left-arm paceman Sheldon Cottrell, bowling both from over and round the wicket for Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha to exploit, and the general consensus was that the spinners would pose the biggest threat. 

As it turned out, Shami was the one West Indies found the hottest to handle, his pace, reverse swing, persistence and the ability to bowl for long periods too potent a combination. Shami followed up 4 for 71 in the first innings with figures of 5 for 47 from 13.1 overs of naked hostility to send West Indies crashing to 168 all out. The innings-and-51-run victory with more than two days to spare helped India open up a 1-0 lead in the two-match series. 

West Indies seemed on course to push the match into a fourth day at least when it reached 101 for 1, shortly before tea, but a sensational collapse saw them lose 9 for 67, the collapse sparked by Ashwin and completed by the excellence of Shami. 

No praise can be too high for the tireless Shami, who did suffer at the hands of Chris Gayle in his first spell but came back strongly later on, picking up 2 for 18 either side of the tea break and then returning after a 25-minute break to winkle out two wickets in three deliveries. Each of his five wickets was earned through reverse swing, though the first of those came fortuitously when Marlon Samuels, the first-innings hero, was wrongly adjudged leg before by Nigel Llong. 

Luck had no part to play in Shami’s other successes. Denesh Ramdin was caught betwixt and between, finding short leg off bat and pad, while Darren Sammy, Shane Shillingford and Sheldon Cottrell had neither the technical expertise nor the strength of character to put body between two rapid reversing induckers of different lengths and the stumps. Not often has an Indian paceman bowled with such sustained pace and control on Test debut; many an Indian quick has risen meteorically and faded away but early indications are that Shami is made of sterner stuff. 

The only time West Indies appeared to be making a fist of it was when Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo were in the middle of a 68-run second-wicket stand. Powell had been completely scoreless during the opening association of 33 with Gayle doing all the scoring until tamely half-pulling Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Virat Kohli to take a smart catch running back and to his left from mid-wicket, but was a lot more enterprising in Bravo’s company as India ran into a temporary roadblock. 

India's cause wasn’t helped by Bhuvneshwar putting down Powell at long leg off Ojha – the third catch dropped off his bowling in the game – and try as Mahendra Singh Dhoni did to terminate the association, there was no joy for an hour and a quarter. Then, Ashwin benefited from the vagaries of the pitch, getting one to stay down and strike Powell palpably in front to set the cat amongst the pigeons. 

Ashwin did winkle out Bravo on the cut and then Tino Best, but it was largely Shami all the way after Powell’s dismissal. The older ball was a wonderful ally, darting around like it had a mind of its own. Coupled with great pace, it made life extremely difficult for the batsmen, the ball homing in on the stumps and striking them with some regularity. 

It was in the fitness of things that Shami rounded off the contest, sneaking one through the gate of Cottrell to knock middle pole out and complete a brilliant five-wicket haul. It was a moment worth savouring, and not by the man of the moment alone, the huge Eden crowd rising to salute not just the team’s victory but individual success too for the local lad. 

In the morning, Ashwin had taken just quarter of an hour from the start to cruise from 92 overnight to his second ton – the first too had come against West Indies, at Mumbai in 2011 – after which he sat back and watched from the best seat in the ground as Rohit surged into overdrive. There were drives off the front foot and back against Best and Cottrell, and delicate dabs and paddles off Shillingford as he scored briskly despite the offspinner procuring turn and variable bounce. 

Rohit looked set for his second international century in seven days until Richard Kettleborough intervened. Veerasammy Permaul, the left-arm spinner, wasn’t brought on until the 22nd over of the day but he broke the 280-run partnership with his first delivery. Rohit thrust his left pad out at a ball that pitched outside off and was turning away, and to everyone’s surprise, Kettleborough upheld the half-hearted shout for leg before. Rohit hung around an eternity before trudging off, his disappointment as obvious as it was justified. 

Ashwin was dismissed 20 deliveries later, bowled round his legs to give Shillingford his fifth five-wicket hual and India didn’t add too many after that, though its final tally was a massive improvement from 83 for 5 and had set it up nicely for the bowlers in general, and Shami in particular, to strut their stuff a second time. It meant there was no farewell final knock at the iconic venue from Sachin Tendulkar but for the moment, no one is complaining.

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