Monday, March 27, 2023

India dominate as Bhuvneshwar wrecks Windies


St. Lucia, Aug 13 (IANS) With a 285-run lead and seven wickets in the second innings, India dominated the third Test after pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar wrecked the West Indies on the fourth day at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium here.

At stumps on Friday, India were sitting pretty at 157/3 in 39 overs, with Ajinkya Rahane (51 in 93 balls) and Rohit Sharma (41 in 57 balls) at the crease after bundling out the West Indies for 225 in 103.4 overs in the first innings in reply to 353 in 129.4 overs.

Though India lost three early wickets including skipper Virat Kohli and openers Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan when the score was 72 in 16.3 overs, Rahane and Sharma raced against time to an unbeaten 85-run fourth wicket partnership in 15 overs.

Maintaining his form, Rahane crossed the 50-run mark and Sharma made up for a paltry 9 in the first innings to accelerate the run rate to 4.02 per over with three mighty sixes and one boundary.

It remains to be seen how long India will play on the last day (Saturday) to declare the innings with a challenging target of 350 plus for the Windies to bite the bullet, as play will be for 98 overs to make up for the loss of the third day’s play due to heavy rain and thunderstorms on Thursday.

Earlier, the Windies top and middle order wilted under pressure from Kumar, who was the pick of the Indian bowlers, while Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared the remaining two wickets during the post-lunch session.

Though the new pair of Marlon Samuels and Jermaine Blackwood tried to consolidate the innings and took the score past 200 runs in the 87th over, Kumar scalped both of them with accurate bowling to the stumps, aided by seam and windy conditions.

With a flurry of in-swingers and out-swingers, Kumar had Blackwood caught in the second slip by Kohli in the 88th over for 20 in 86 balls and clean bowled Samuels in the 90th over for 48 in 107 balls, with seven boundaries and a six, the only one in the Windies’ first innings.

A quick exit of the middle order duo forced the Windies’ keeper Shane Dowirch and all-rounder Roston Chase to be defensive and play on to avoid losing further wickets.

But that was not to be, as Jadeja had Chase caught in the slips by Rahane in the following over (91st) for just 2 in 12 balls, while Kumar got the Windies’ skipper Jason Holder plumb before the wicket in the 94th over for only 2 in 11 balls.

Holder’s quick exit exerted more pressure on the tailenders, as the team lost four key wickets in a span of four overs for 10 runs to 212 from 202.

The magical bowling spell of Kumar and Ashwin also troubled Test debutant Alzarri Jospeh, and Miguelo Cummins who were out for ducks, while Shannon Gabriel remained not out zero after Kumar made Dowrich snick the ball to Dhawan in the slip for 18 in 38 balls.

Resuming at 107/1 in 47 overs under bright sunshine after heavy rain washed out play on Thursday, opener Kraigg Brathwaite and one-down Darren Bravo tried to settle down for a long haul by dodging the Indian spin-cum-pace combo and batting at ease to accelerate the run-rate.

Taking advantage of the seam and turn in the pitch, Indian skipper Kohli had deployed spin at one end and pace at the other to separate the duo.

As both were getting into form, southpaw Bravo top-edged a Sharma rising ball to Jadeja’s waiting hands at fine leg when he was at 29 in 101 balls with three boundaries and the Windies were 129/1 in the 56th over.

The second wicket partnership was 70.

After two overs and six runs, it was the turn of Braithwaite to exit, as he snicked a turning ball from Ashwin to keeper Wriddhiman Saha behind even as he was going strong at 64 in 163 balls with six boundaries.

Brief scores: India 353 (first innings) and 157/3 in second innings in 39 overs. Rahane 51, Sharma 41. Cummins 2/23.

West Indies 225 (first innings) Kraigg Brathwaite 64, Samuels 48, Johnson 23, Bravo 29, Blackwood 20 and Dowrich 18. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5/33, Ashwin 2/52

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