North Sound: Ajinkya Rahane battled his way through a shaky start to score a fighting half-century taking India to 134 for 4 at tea on the opening day of their inaugural World Test Championship encounter against the West Indies.
The Indian vice-captain scored the 18th half-century of his career and was unbeaten on 50 off 122 balls in company of Hanuma Vihari (18 batting). The duo added 41 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand before umpires called for an early tea due after heavens opened up.
The other significant contribution came from opener KL Rahul (44, 97 balls), who did all the hardwork before frittering it away after the post-lunch session.
Rahul, who looked solid despite a top-order collapse was out for 44 in the post-lunch session after wicketkeeper Shai Hope took a smart catch down leg-side off Roston Chase’s bowling.
This was after Rahul along with an initially circumspect Rahane added 68 runs for the fourth wicket.
Rahane, who has been in poor form for the past two years, was in his element in the post lunch session, where he hit a flurry boundaries including some lovely drives.
A square and straight drive off Shannon Gabriel and a cover drive of Kemar Roach signalled his intentions. Although he should consider himself lucky after a mistimed lofted shot off Chase was dropped by Miguel Cummins, who tried latching onto the catch running backeards from his mid-on position.
To add insult to his injury, Rahane got a double off Cummins to complete his half-century, which would be much of a relief for him.
Earlier, Rahul, who had a wretched 18 months in the red-ball format, before this Test match, looked composed in the first session after India were reduced to 25 for 3 inside the first eight overs on a track that offered bounce and lateral movement for new ball bowlers Roach (2/24 in 11 overs) and Gabriel (1/38 in 10 overs).
Mayank Agarwal (5), the ever-dependable Cheteshwar Pujara (2) and skipper Virat Kohli (9) were back in the pavilion in the first hour after Jason Holder put the visitors in on a bouncy track.
Rahul (37 batting, 73 balls) and vice-captain Rahane (10 batting, 43 balls) added 42 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket and stemmed the rot going into the lunch break after 24 overs were bowled during the opening session.
Agarwal got one from Roach, which held its line and the opener didn’t fully commit forward with resultant nick being gobbled by Shai Hope behind the stumps.
The dogged Pujara didn’t last long as he got a delivery from Roach that moved a shade away after pitching with India’s No. 3 lunging forward. The edge was taken low down by Hope.
Skipper Kohli relishes such adverse situations and tough conditions but it wasn’t his day despite a promising start that included a drive past point and another past mid-on.
However, Gabriel’s ball, one that climbed on him from short of length, saw Kohli fend awkwardly, only to be caught at gully by debutant Shamarh Brooks.
At 25 for 3, it could have been worse but a determined Rahul put his head down and left a lot of deliveries outside off-stump as Rahane also defended dourly at the other end, waiting for Roach and Gabriel’s first spell to end.
It was only when back-up pacer Miguel Cummins came into operation that Rahul collected three of his four boundaries — a cut and a couple of off-drives.
Not for once did Rahane look comfortable during the first session and both his boundaries were freak ones. The first was a thickish outside edge that bounced short of second slip before going for four runs. The second was a pull-shot and he wasn’t entirely in control. However, the best part was that he hung in there.