Port of Spain: Ravichandran Ashwin produced a peach of a delivery while Mohammed Siraj made the old ball talk as a defensive West Indies crawled their way to 229 for 5 against India on a rain-hit third day of the second Test, here on Saturday.
Only 67 overs were possible on the third day with West Indies batters looking for a draw, adding just 143 runs. They are still 209 runs behind India’s first innings score of 438.
However, there was no let-up in intensity in Indian bowling as Ashwin bowled the ‘ball of the series’ and Siraj delivered a perfect in-cutter to clean up Joshua Da Silva just at the stroke of rain-break to end the day on an even keel on the flattest of decks.
West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite (75 off 235 balls) used his enormous powers of concentration to frustrate the Indian attack on an insipid track before world’s No. 1 Test bowler held the centre stage with a magical moment that brought the smiles back in Indian camp.
The track on offer here is a poor advertisement for Test cricket and if it gets any rating other than ”Average” from ICC that will be a real surprise.
If West Indies were indiscreet in their shot selection in the opening Test, the home team batters were over-cautious and a lifeless pitch helped their negative approach and a draw seems an inevitability.
Toiling for close to 73 overs on a track which at best can be called ”dead”, Ashwin (33-10-61-1) bowled a delivery that had flight and required inward drift which was good enough to entice Brathwaite to plonk his front-foot for his umpteenth defensive prod.
But to his horror, the ball turned sharply, an off-spinner’s dream delivery that went between bat and pad to hit the stumps.
A compact defensive player, Brathwaite’s only fault was pushing his bat slightly ahead of his pad instead of keeping it close. It allowed the ball to exploit the gap to the fullest.
The dismissal came just when Brathwaite and an equally stodgy Jermaine Blackwood (20 off 92 balls) brought their ultra-defensive ”A” game to the fore adding only 40 runs in 21 overs in the post-lunch session.
The Queens Park Oval track has literally nothing in it for bowlers and with West Indies batters intent to block more deliveries, creating chances became all the more difficult.
Having lost better part of the first session to rain, Indian bowlers were left high and dry with the track not showing considerable wear and tear.
The figures of Ravindra Jadeja at that stage (25-10-37-2) was an indication enough that defending wasn’t difficult as he hardly bowled any wicket-taking deliveries during the post-lunch session.
Ashwin also had his moments of frustration when he over-flighted a few deliveries and was dispatched to the boundary.
However Jadeja had a gun slip fielder in Ajinkya Rahane, who held onto a stunner diving to his left to send back Jermaine Blackwood as he tried to jab at a delivery that took the outside edge of his blade.
While the new ball was available, skipper Rohit Sharma continued with the old ball as Jaydev Unadkat (0/42 in 16 overs) did get some reverse swing without much luck. But it was Mohammed Siraj (20-6-48-1), who bowled one with a wobbly seam as the scuffed up side deviated in after pitching to clean up Da Silva.
In the morning session, debutant Mukesh Kumar was rewarded for his nagging channel bowling as his maiden wicket in the form of fellow debutant Kirk McKenzie.
Bowling a line which is right on off-stump or shade outside of it, Mukesh bowled a delivery on fuller side with not enough room to cut which McKenzie (32 off 57 balls) edged it to Ishan Kishan for a regulation catch.
McKenzie, who hit four boundaries and a six, looked in fine touch and played with a lot of purpose during his 57-ball stay.
However, one man who would be itching to get into the wickets column will be veteran Saurashtra left-arm pacer Unadkat.
The domestic workhorse undoubtedly is the weakest link in the Indian bowling attack as he is the only bowler who is yet to get a wicket after 98 overs.
To be fair, his post tea spell was the best but bit more pace on a flat deck would have made him more incisive enough to create problems for the batters.
With the next series in South Africa, Unadkat with two wicket-less Tests in the West Indies might find it extremely difficult to hold onto his place in the squad.
The difference between him and Mukesh has been the length that the Bengal pacer found which is slightly fuller despite both of them bowling at the same pace.