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Shami, Umesh have West Indies on the hop

Forced to follow on, host slumps to 21 for 1 in second innings, needing 302 more runs to avoid an innings defeat

Shami, Umesh have West Indies on the hop - Cricket News
Yadav and Shami bowled sprightly spells to send the West Indian batting in disarray
India extended its run of bold decisions that paid off handsomely deep into the third day of the first Test against West Indies, establishing a direct line towards victory. West Indies, batting a second time after never really threatening to avoid the follow-on at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, was 21 for 1 at stumps on Saturday (July 23), still trailing by 302, and a long fourth day beckons for batsmen unused to spending significant amounts of time out in the middle.
Mohammed Shami, who has not played a Test match since January 2015, showed that injury and time away from bowling had not blunted him in any manner. Hitting exactly the right lengths on a pitch that was not easy to score runs on and devilish hard work for bowlers of all kinds, Shami displayed a knack for picking up wickets when none seemed forthcoming.
But, while Shami infused proceedings with a threat level that was mostly absent when West Indies had the red Duke ball in hand, India’s ascendancy was by no means the result of a lone effort.
To start with, credit must go to Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble for picking five specialist bowlers, three of them quick men. This here was a surface that minimised the need to pick the spinners out of the hand, so slowly did the ball turn when it did find purchase. This meant that a bulk of the workload had to be shouldered by the fast bowlers, and not one of them flagged, even when a partnership was building.
When West Indies began the day on 31 for 1 in its first innings in response to India’s 566 for 8 declared, Devendra Bishoo, the nightwatchman, offered sufficient irritation value, hanging around for close to an hour and a half before being dragged out of his crease by Amit Mishra for Wriddhiman Saha to complete a smart stumping.
Batting long periods of time is a bit of a cottage industry in modern cricket, especially in this part of the world where the current crop of batsmen appear to be far more ideally suited to the shortest version of the game. But Kraigg Brathwaite is a practitioner of a more traditional art, and he stood defiantly in India’s way as his mates came and went at the other end.
The two most experienced batsmen in the team, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels, were outmanoeuvred by Shami. Bravo looked for a safe glide behind square on the off, but a good length ball reared sharply, defeating the shot and zipping through to the ‘keeper via the outside edge. Samuels found neither footwork nor balance in his time at the crease, and Shami’s relentless funneling of the ball in a channel outside off produced the inevitable – a feather to the ‘keeper off a nothing shot. Four balls later, Shami once again found extra bounce on a surface that had defied others, Jermaine Blackwood spearing an edge to Ajinkya Rahane in the slip cordon. At the end of the 48th over, West Indies was five down, and its slow plod meant only 92 runs were on the board, a run rate of less than two.


Brathwaite continued his vigil, keeping one end sealed firmly shut. A rare aggressive shot from Brathwaite, finding the midwicket boundary off Mishra, brought up his half-century, in the small matter of 156 balls. Umesh Yadav then backed up his partner well, accounting for Roston Chase, the debutant, and Jason Holder despite the lack of any obvious reverse swing.
Shane Dowrich, the wicketkeeper, was in the process of settling in when Brathwaite (74) got a lifter from Umesh and, having committed to playing the ball, gloved it through to the ‘keeper. Here was the oddest reversal of traditional India-West Indies cricket, quick bowlers from overseas leaving the men of the Caribbean hopping and weaving.
With Brathwaite gone, the writing was on the wall. India stuck to its guns, bowling West Indies out for 243 in 90.2 overs. Even this score flattered the difference between the two teams, Dowrich’s unbeaten 57 helping it towards respectability.
India would have been tempted to give the quick bowlers a rest, but Shami, with 4 for 66, and Umesh, with 4 for 41, were clearly keen to get back in harness despite having sent down 38 overs between them. Besides, with only 13 overs to be bowled, it was a matter of finding a second wind and getting through one hour before enjoying a hard-earned night’s rest.
To its utter delight, India was rewarded with a big wicket, Ishant Sharma pitching one up and catching Brathwaite by surprise. Having been on the shorter side for the best part of the day, Ishant’s full ball nailed the batsman in front of the stumps.
At 21 for 1, West Indies is still 302 runs behind and looking like it may not drag this match into the final day. The rural setting of this ground has been blamed for the sparseness of the crowd over the first few days, but perhaps the lack of competitive cricket from the team they love plays a bigger part. For India, though, it mattered little that it was playing in front of few. It still brought its A-game to the fore and was justly rewarded.


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