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West Indies strong after Ashwin-Saha show

Kraigg Brathwaite’s unbeaten 53 helps home side to 107/1 after India puts up 353 on the second day of the St Lucia Test

West Indies strong after Ashwin-Saha show - Cricket News
When West Indies began its reply it was immediately clear that the fight was on.
A maiden Test hundred for Wriddhiman Saha and a fourth three-figure knock from R Ashwin ensured that India’s lower order more than made up for the top-order collapse that left it reeling on the first day of the Third Test against West Indies in St Lucia. India posted 353, not in itself a giant total, but from 87 for 4 and then 126 for 5, this was a rearguard that not only brought respectability to India’s position, but also helped wrench some of the momentum away from the home team, which replied with a strong 107 for 1 on a day when every player had to put in a serious effort to earn their wages.
 
When second day’s play began on Wednesday (August 10), neither team had the obvious advantage, and after typical Test-match ebbing and flowing, the status quo remained. India still had plenty of work to do, resuming on 234 for 5, and thankfully had two men at the crease with an appetite for hard work, the technique to execute and the discipline to take the game one ball at a time, on merit.
 
The pitch had eased up slightly, but it was far from a sleeping beauty, affording the bowlers bounce and carry when they bent their backs or tossed the ball up. The critical difference between the vigil on the first day and the crease occupation on the second was the manner in which Saha unlocked run-scoring opportunities. Constantly looking to work the ball into the gaps on the leg side, mindful not to play across the line, Saha left the ball well enough outside off to force the bowlers to attack the stumps and come to him. With the ball angling in to him, Saha covered the line adeptly and hit the gaps on the leg side.
 
Ashwin, who had begun the day on 75, found that his partner had got a move on, and as the lunch interval drew close, he moved to kissing distance of his century. The entire Indian team assembled on the balcony of the dressing-room, all standing in readiness to applaud a contribution that had saved their blushes.
 
If the team was eager to celebrate, Ashwin was as patient as ever, determined not to let the impending milestone cause a shift in focus or change in approach that could threaten his wicket. As many as 4.2 overs passed with the team waiting for the Ashwin century but the lunch interval came first. By then, Saha had advanced to 93, and there was a real possibility that he would be the one to breast the century-mark tape.


 
It is unclear what Ashwin ate at lunch, but it did the trick. Advancing down the pitch to Roston Chase, taking on the ball that was given just that bit of extra air, Ashwin launched it into the stands over mid-on, his timing immaculate and the connection clean enough to take the ball the distance.
 
If the dressing-room finally got the chance to cheer and get on with their day, Saha drew them back out to the viewing area soon enough. Chase was the provider once more, Saha choosing a more sedate stroke, a square drive through point for a brace that made him only the fourth Indian wicketkeeper-batsman to score a Test hundred overseas. Vijay Manjrekar, Ajay Ratra and MS Dhoni were the earlier stumpers to the mark, and with his century, Saha also brought up the first instance of India’s No. 6 and No. 7 making centuries in a single innings.
 
The joy of achieving a lifelong dream and the accompanying sense of relief led to a lapse in concentration, and Saha (104) pushed hard at a slightly wide one from Alzarri Joseph, nicking off to Shane Dowrich. An epic 213-run sixth-wicket partnership that kept West Indies on the field for 72.2 overs had come to an end.
 
As is so often the case, the breaking of a major stand opens the floodgates. India’s 339 for 5 quickly becoming 353 all out as Miguel Cummins polished off the tail. Ashwin, who ended on 118, was one of Cummins’s victims, awkwardly fending a short ball to point.
 
When West Indies began its reply it was immediately clear that the fight was on. Leon Johnson and Kraigg Brathwaite presented the full face of the bat, punching neatly and defending with purpose. With the bowlers not looking especially likely to get a wicket – apart from the time Johnson was dropped in the slip cordon – a sharp bit of fielding came to India’s aid. KL Rahul, swooping to his right at short midwicket, side-armed a throw to the one visible stump at the non-striker’s end to find Johnson short of his crease. The single was ambitious and Johnson paid the price, much to the relief of Rahul, who had reprieved the batsman earlier.
 
There was no further joy for India, however, as Brathwaite and Darren Bravo guided West Indies safely to 107 for 1 at stumps. Bravo finally found form, batting brightly to reach 18, setting his stall out for a big one, while Brathwaite had 53 solid runs to his name.
 
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