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Top order secures the draw for India

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Indian batting came good on the final day’s play to draw the 3rd Test Match at St.Kitts. The top four batsmen for India scored half centuries to take India to the Series decider in Kingston, Jamaica at 0-0. The visitors were set a difficult target of 392 in a minimum of 88 overs and once they got to a safety zone, a small effort was put on to go for the target. Eventually they decided that it was out of reach for them to close the match at an impressive 298 for 4. West Indies pace attack looked decent when they got the ball to reverse but they were kept at bay by the experienced pair of Laxman and Dravid who know all about countering the dangerous reverse swing.

Tale of the Morning Session

West Indies wanted to get their lead to 400 as quickly as possible to secure this match and they went after the bowling straightaway this morning. Bravo fell in going for the big one as he holed down to long on off Anil Kumble. Marlon Samuels came in and played few great shots through mid wicket to get what West Indies wanted. He also fell trying to go for everything and it was Harbhajan who got him stumped after Samuels got stranded after charging down the track too soon. But that wasn’t going to stop West Indies in declaring their innings after batting just 8 overs in which they had got 69 runs. Daren Ganga, one of the overnight batsmen smartly remained unbeaten on 66. West Indies declared at 172 for 6 and because of that 32 overs were lost in the match. Lara had of course defended his decision in not enforcing the follow on as his bowlers needed to recharge their batteries for taking up 10 wickets.

India had an anxious start as Sehwag got troubled by the short pitch deliveries. West Indies dropped him when he was on 5 as Gayle spilled a regulation catch at slip. Taylor had bowled a beauty that squared up Sehwag to get the edge. Soon West Indies were made to pay for that costly mistake as the two Indian openers started to settle down. Wasim Jaffer was looking compact and Sehwag who was shaky initially was determined to stay at the wicket. The runs started to flow as some of the short deliveries sat up to be hit because of the slowness in the track. Sehwag soon raced away to a fifty and he was once again dropped, this time it was at short extra covers where Sarwan couldn’t hold onto to a smashing cover drive played in the air. India went to lunch at 109 for no loss in 26 overs. Jaffer was on 35 and Sehwag was looking dangerous on 60.

Tale of the Afternoon Session

Sehwag fell in the very first ball of the post lunch session as he was rapped up by a reverse swinging inswinger from Collymore. It was an easy decision for Rudi Koertzen with Sehwag being tentatively forward to that and his bat was coming along the wrong line to get struck in front of the stumps. India needed a solid partnership now and the pair of Jaffer and Laxman provided that. Jaffer got to his fifty soon and he started to drive a lot freely and he got carried away with that to play one loose shot off Collins outside the offstump to get an outside edge which was taken by Gayle. Jaffer got out for a well made 54 after lasting 118 balls. Dravid then joined Laxman and both batsmen were against some good bowling from the West Indies. The occasional boundary ball kept the momentum going for the Indians. But things started to slow down as both batsmen decided to guard their wickets and bat for the Tea Break which they did to take India to 200 for 2. Laxman had also got to a valuable fifty in this session which took him just 79 balls.
Tale of the Final Session

With 33 overs remaining in the day’s play and 192 to get, India started off to take some chances. It was Laxman who was responsible to go after the bowling and he collected two boundaries after the break, one of which being a slog over mid on. But he soon got out going after the width provided by Collins in the first ball of his new spell. Laxman’s outside edge was taken by Lara and 2nd slip and that dismissal got Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the middle. The Indian Wicket Keeper batsman stunned the crowd with a six over long off in the very first ball he faced. Pedro Collins was the bowler who got hit for that just after taking a wicket. West Indies were smart enough to bring in Collymore into the attack and the two pacers adjusted by shortening their lengths to Dhoni. The line was also outside the offstump mostly and Dhoni struggled to connect most of these deliveries. Collins for a change did pitch it up and the result was a lofted off drive for a six by Dhoni. However Dhoni’s brief struggle at the wicket ended after his full blooded cover drive on the up was taken brilliantly by Gayle at covers. Dhoni took 32 balls to score his 20. After Dhoni’s dismissal, Dravid (68*) and Yuvraj (8*) took the option of taking it easy and closed the shutters to save their wickets. Dravid did manage to show his class before the match was called off by stepping down to Gayle and sending the ball onto the roof of the long off stands.

Daren Ganga who scored a century and a fifty got the Man of the Match award ahead of VVS Laxman who achieved the same feat! The two teams now move onto Kingston where they play the fourth and final Test Match which begins on 30th.

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