Visitor opens up 285-run lead with seven wickets in hand after swing exponent picks up 5 for 33 in first Test appearance since January 2015
A Test match that should have rightfully been heading for the tamest of draws after an entire day’s play was lost to rain came roaring back to life, thanks literally to one spell of distinguished swing bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Out of nowhere, Bhuvneshwar found the rhythm to swing the Duke ball, and as soon as he did so, the challenge before the batsmen was a completely different one. After beginning Friday's (August 12) fourth day of the third Test on 107 for 1 in response to India’s 353, West Indies went from a confident 202 for 3 to 225 all out, proving that even one bad session can cost you dear in a Test match. By stumps, an aggressive Indian team had a lead of 285 with seven second-innings wickets to spare and at least 98 overs to play with on the final day, after reaching 157 for 3 batting a second time around.
When he took the second new ball, Bhuvneshwar had the tidy if not particularly spectacular figures of 12-4-17-0. That was when the ball wasn’t shaping away or in appreciably. Once he engaged that perfectly locked wrist and released the ball with an excellent seam position, it did not take him long to snare his first victim. Jermaine Blackwood began brightly, tonking Bhuvneshwar back over his head, on the rise and through the line, for a one-bounce boundary but inexplicably gave up his natural attacking instinct for something more sedate.
Batting responsibly, based on the situation, conditions and bowling before you, is always to be lauded, but a major departure from your natural batting style is never a good idea. Where Blackwood previously went out and grabbed what he wanted, playing strokes like a millionaire, he now haggled for every run like a miser at a bazaar. It could not last, and it didn’t, a full delivery from Bhuvneshwar curling away late and bouncing that little bit more than Blackwood expected, drawing the edge for Virat Kohli to pouch.
Marlon Samuels, who had been utterly solid, was then set up in classical fashion. Moving the ball away from the right-hand bat, shifting his line ever so subtly further away from the off-stump, Bhuvneshwar got Samuels well used to the idea of playing away from his body a touch, with an angled bat at that. Once the batsman was primed, Bhuvneshwar bowled the inswinger and Samuels, in typical fashion, went at the ball with only his hands, not moving his feet at all, and only managed to drag it onto his stumps.
All of a sudden, Bhuvneshwar was on song, persistently beating bat and making the ball do exactly what he wanted. The runs dried up completely and like a flailing doe sinking deeper into the mire of quicksand, the wickets came with an air of inevitability.
Ravindra Jadeja interrupted Bhuvneshwar’s lone march, having Roston Chase caught at slip by Ajinkya.
Rahane, but the swing bowler would not be denied for long. Jason Holder, unsure of whether to play forward or back, chose wrongly, straddling the crease to an inducker that crashed into pad. The shout was loud but needn’t have been for Rod Tucker’s finger went up almost instantaneously.
Alzarri Joseph, who has a highest first-class score of only 18, was easy pickings for Bhuvneshwar, who sent down yet another fullish delivery that left the batsman late, the stroke defeated, edge drawn and catch completed.
Bhuvneshwar, he of the angelic features and perfectly symmetrical face that has drawn the interest of model coordinators aplenty, had sent down a positively demonic spell that read 9-6-11-4.
Bhuvneshwar should have had his five-for soon after, but when KL Rahul grassed a chance at slip, Rohit Sharma put down a swirler in the billowing wind and a loud shout for a lbw was turned down, R Ashwin packed off Miguel Cummins and it appeared that, cruelly, Bhuvneshwar would be denied a five-wicket bag. Fortunately for him, though, Shane Dowrich was in an obliging mood, jabbing at a ball that he should have left well alone, spearing an edge to Shikhar Dhawan, who parried the ball at slip but managed to hold on. West Indies was bowled out for only 225, giving India a handy lead of 128, and, Bhuvneshwar, playing his first Test since January 2015, ended with the remarkable returns of 23.4-10-33-5.
India’s batsmen came out with a strong positive intent, not quite looking to smash the cover off the ball but intent on picking off runs wherever they could. Cummins got Rahul to nick off and followed that up with an incoming ball that trapped Kohli in front of the stumps. With the big wicket in the bag and Dhawan falling soon after, almost treading on a full-toss from Chase, West Indies had made significant inroads into the Indian line-up.
But as is his wont, Holder barked up the wrong tree, choosing an ultra-conservative approach when attack really was the only option. Pulling his fast bowlers out of the attack, Holder employed part-time offspin from Chase and Kraigg Brathwaite in tandem, releasing all the pressure and allowing Rahane and Rohit Sharma to settle in. The pair tucked in, adding an unbeaten 85 and taking India to a lead of 285 when stumps were drawn.
Rahane had 51 to his name and Rohit 41, and if the pair can get some quick runs first up on the final day, West Indies will find itself under the pump once more.
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