India won the First Digicel Test against West Indies at the Sabina Park in Kingston by 63 runs to go 1-0 up in the 3-Test Series. Rahul Dravid was the chief architect of the win scoring 40 and then 112 in the second innings which got him the Man of the Match. If Dravid was the star with the bat, then it was Praveen Kumar with the ball taking three wickets in a spell in the first innings and on the fourth day’s play, the debutant delivered two crucial blows which knocked West Indies out of the match completely!
Tale of the Morning Session :
Things were looking bright for the hosts as the two Indian pacers struggled to find any movement to trouble the overnight pair of Bravo and Chanderpaul. In what was the 6th over of the morning, the underrated Praveen Kumar provided the biggest breakthrough of the match by breaking a 68-run stand for the 4th wicket. Darren Bravo lost his wicket shuffling far too across the stumps in a flick shot to a delivery from round the sticks which stayed low to beat the bat, brush the edge of the pad and bowled him round the legs! Bravo departed having scored 41 from 89 balls with 7 fours. In his next over, Praveen Kumar delivered the knock out punch to West Indies by forcing the vastly experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul to drive a juicy outswinger straight into the hands of covers. Chanderpaul (30 from 73 balls with 4 fours) got out just like Laxman who drove Sammy early on a pitch that was holding up at times.
West Indies were indeed out of the run chase of 326 slipping to 149 for 5 with no big names left to win the match. Harbhajan Singh struck early in his new spell by forcing birthday boy Carlton Baugh to a bat pad edge to leg slip in the 44th over. The birthday gift from Harbhajan was sending back Baugh for a 4-ball duck!
Darren Sammy who was under severe pressure to justify his place in the side resorted to counter attack which resulting in smashing Harbhajan Singh for three sixes in a row! Amit Mishra who was brought into the bowling attack struck gold in the very first ball he bowled with Sammy (25 from 11 balls with a four and 3 sixes) in an attacking mood failed to get to the pitch of the ball in an inside out booming drive which flew straight into the hands of Laxman at short extra covers. The left handed Brendan Nash (9 from 36 balls), who was the last recognised batsman left for Windies succumbed to a low delivery from Amit Mishra which defeated his pull shot to strike the pad plumb infront of middle to reduce the score to 188 for 8 in 51 overs.
After a fighting knock of 34 from 32 balls with 6 fours and a six, no.9 Ravi Rampaul lost his wicket in the 57th over fending off a nasty rising delivery from Ishant Sharma which was stunningly caught overhead by MS Dhoni. There was slight controversy as that Ishant Sharma delivery was very close to being the third bouncer of the over which is illegal according to the rules. India fell just a wicket short by lunch with West Indies at 226 for 9 in 58 overs.
Tale of the Afternoon Session :
It was surely going to be the final session of the match with West Indies having only the no.10 and no.11 left in the crease. The pair of Fidel Edwards and Devendra Bishoo stubbornly defied the Indian spinners comfortably for more than half an hour after the break. It was only through sheer luck that India could break what was a last wicket stand of 39 runs which lasted more than 11 overs. Part timer Suresh Raina ended the match when Bishoo (26 from 33 balls with 2 fours and a six) went back and played a loose defence to his quicker one which rolled down between his legs to disturb the stumps. Edwards remained unbeaten on 15 surviving 54 balls. For India, the main wicket takers were Ishant and Praveen taking three wickets each while the two spinners didn’t succeed in taking wickets in a hurry on a tailor-made track for them.