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West Indies off to a shaky start in reply to India’s mammoth total

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India has taken control of the 2nd Test match at St.Lucia by having the West Indies first innings in tatters at 65 for 3. West Indies have lost the crucial wickets of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Skipper Brian Lara and now it looks like a tall mountain to climb for them as they are behind by a mammoth 523 runs. If West Indies can close in to that figure then the match might most probably end up in a draw. They can get there with Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul already showing their intentions of pulling up a fightback. At the moment, things are favouring India with the ball turning sharply and the top surface of the pitch getting deteriorated. There is enough in the pitch to make the fast bowlers satisfied and the key is to bowl straight, that is bowl wicket to wicket on a length. Munaf Patel and Anil Kumble certainly understand how to bowl on this track and they have already been rewarded with their strategies.

Tale of the Morning Session

The morning session started off well for the Indians with runs coming at a good pace thanks to some lackluster bowling from West Indies who often sprayed down the pads of the batsmen. The 2nd new ball was taken after some time but it did not have any impact on the batsmen. Rahul Dravid soon got to his hundred, which was his 3rd against West Indies and his 23rd overall. Kaif completed a neat half century and it was a good opportunity for him on this batting track to get to a big score. Just in the last over before the lunch break, Rahul Dravid fell at a personal score of 146. It was an embarrassing dismissal for both the batsman and also the bowler Ramnaresh Sarwan who had bowled a shocking long hop way outside the offstump. It could have easily been called a wide but Dravid chased that to smash it over the infield but couldn’t time that at all and ended up spooning a straightforward catch at covers. That took India to lunch at 485 for 5 with Kaif batting on 89.

Tale of the Afternoon Session

After lunch, Mohammad Kaif got to his maiden test century and he was helped by a full toss bowled by Sarwan that he put away for a boundary. There was a slight halt to the play as the conditions became dark and there was a threat of the rain. After a while the artificial lights were switched on and play resumed only to see the end of Dhoni. The Indian wicket keeper had lost his concentration and went playing a careless drive away from his body to reward Bradshaw with his wicket. Irfan Pathan then followed Dhoni back to the pavilion as he was anxious in putting Gayle’s offbreak out in the outfield and ended up driving a ball that wasn’t there to be driven. Meanwhile Mohammad Kaif played some classy cover drives to keep the scoreboard moving for India. The visitors went to Tea at 584 for 7 with Kaif on 146 and giving him company was Kumble who was trying to be aggressive in his innings.

Tale of the Final Session

After Tea, Anil Kumble got out chopping on a short delivery from Jerome Taylor onto his stumps and Dravid seemed to have thought that was more than enough and declared the innings at 588 for 8. That was a good decision as there is hardly any difference between 588 and 600. Kaif remained unbeaten on 148 and his innings had 12 fours. West Indies required to face 25 overs before the close of play. Ganga played some streaky shots and got away as the Indian slip cordon was not properly packed. But Munaf soon caused the damage by getting straighter in line to trap Ganga with his inswinger. The very next ball Sarwan fell to another deadly inswinger from the same bowler to get Munaf on a hat trick. Sarwan had shuffled across his stumps and got defeated by that slippery inswinger. Gayle all this time was pouncing on anything short and wide from Irfan Pathan. The left arm pacer was soon removed from the attack and Kumble was brought into the attack without wasting any time. Brian Lara joined Gayle and he was tested by Munaf Patel who was constantly drawing him forward to set him up to play the loose drives outside the offstump. Lara was equal to the task and he played a couple of magnificent cover drives to announce his arrival. But in Kumble’s 2nd over, he pushed tentatively forward to a leg break that looked to be drifting away and then straightened to strike him on the pads. The impact was on the middle stump and Lara’s bat was well behind the pads which meant that he was playing along the wrong line. The long stride forward did not save him and Asad Rauf made the correct decision in ruling that out. Chanderpaul and Gayle then ensured that West Indies did not lose any more wickets to end the day’s play at 65 for 3. Chanderpaul did survive a confident lbw shout from Kumble that could have gone in favour of the bowler.

This test match is becoming really intense now and we are getting to see the balance between the bat and the ball in this innings unlike the West Indies bowlers who struggled most part of the Indian innings. The pitch is still not unplayable and West Indies can come back fighting to kill time in this match. Chanderpaul who has always grinded the Indian attack will be the key batsman for the homeside. For India, they still need to pick up 17 wickets to win this match!

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