West Indies still hold whip
The third Cable & Wireless Test went through a succession of contortions on the third day yesterday but it would have taken the elasticity of an Indian yoga master to have turned it on its head.
For all the sudden twists and turns, the West Indies remained as strongly placed as when they routed India for 102 on the opening day.
They extended their lead to 292 before lunch after captain Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul duly completed their second centuries and their second double-century stand of the series and in spite of the customary collapse of their tailend, the last six wickets falling for 18.
Inevitably, they had to contend with more tenacious resistance from the Indian batsmen on an ideal pitch than in the feeble first innings.
But they recovered their composure after a chaotic second session to remove the top four in the Indian order for 169 by close, called seven overs before schedule, just past 6 p.m.
It left India, with a tail as negligible as their own, still 123 short of avoiding another heavy defeat at Kensington Oval where they have been beaten in six of their previous seven Tests.
Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, the two whose records place them in the elevated company of modern batsmen with averages above 50, have already gone cheaply. And India's chances of protecting their 1-0 lead in the series now lies with the last of their specialist batsmen, captain Saurav Ganguly and V.V.S.Laxman.
They spent the last 23 overs of the day together in a partnership of 51 and resume this morning.
But had Ramnaresh Sarwan been able to cling on to sharp chances at short-leg before either had scored neither as difficult as one he held earlier in the same position and had Laxman's edged catch to the 'keeper off Pedro Collins at 15 not been negated by a no-ball, the match might well have been over already.
India's slim hopes of getting back into contention flickered more than once as they summarily despatched Ridley Jacobs and the four fast bowlers after removing Hooper for 115 and followed with their best opening partnership for the series of 80 between Shiv Sunder Das and Wasim Jaffer.
The three-quarters of an hour in which the West Indies' first innings folded and the two hours of the second session provided an anxious period for the home team that again raised doubts over whether they have the resources and resolve to make the most of an advantage, even one as overwhelming as this.
The diminutive Das, shell-shocked after his several failures on tour, was alarmingly dropped off Dillon's chest-high lifter by Stuart Williams, low down at fourth slip, when three.
While Cameron Cuffy kept the pressure on with maiden after maiden his figures at close, 18-15-3-0, were scarcely believable Collins especially fed Jaffer's obvious strength off the backfoot through the off-side.
The slim right-hander kept peppering the boundary between point and extra-cover and, even when he slapped a Collins long-hop low to the swooping Sarwan at extra-cover, third umpire Billy Doctrove wasn't persuaded by the television replays that the catch had carried.
Jaffer was then 35 and it took Das' misplaced optimism over a single to cover and Chanderpaul's swift pick-up and direct underarm hit to end his innings with a run out.
India were 85 for one at tea but the West Indies clearly regrouped during the interval.
The remarkable Cuffy, the aggressive Dillon and the more accurate Collins pinned down Das and Dravid to such an extent on resumption that they could only eek out 16 from 13 overs.
The pressure duly told.
Das' dismissal might have been freakish but Dravid and Tendulkar were victims of the new West Indian intensity.
In the second over of a new spell, Adam Sanford drew a drive at a wide ball from Dravid and Jacobs lunged to his right to gather a difficult catch.
Right away, Ganguly stabbed his second ball into and out of Sarwan's grasp but the miss was quickly forgotten in the cacophony from 10 000 voices that greeted another cheap Tendulkar dismissal.
Defending on the back foot against Dillon, he was taken on the pad and not even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could have matched the decibels when umpire Ashoka deSilva nodded his head and raised his finger on the appeal.
Tendulkar has now had scores of nought, nought and eight in his last three innings.
It was to be the last West Indian success for the day but their stranglehold had been scarcely eased.
It was loosened briefly after Hooper was out an hour and a half into the day.
The skipper, 70 at the start, finally fell to a skied off-side catch from off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for 115, while the left-handed Chanderpaul was unbeaten 101 before Jacobs and the bowlers capitulated in familiar fashion.
It was a continuation of the prolific form the two Guyanese brought into the series with a stand of 293 in the drawn first Test in Georgetown when Hooper compiled 233 and Chanderpaul 140, the highest Test scores for each.
Now they recorded their second hundreds in a series for the first time, Hooper also passing 400 in a series for another first.
Hooper had overcome an uncertain start and a lucky break from the third umpire on a television replay for run out at 15 the previous day. Since then, not much missed the middle of the bat.
He proceeded to his 12th Test hundred with three rasping off-side boundaries in the same over off the left-arm swing bowler Asish Nehra whose inconsistency was punished by both batsman.
Chanderpaul was 91 when Hooper's innings of five-and-three-quarter hours was ended as his attempt for a 19th four skewed off the leading edge.
Recent experience would have alerted him to the necessity of gathering the nine runs needed for his fourth Test hundred as quickly as he could.
The last six West Indian wickets in the series had contributed 38, 65 and 51 and he just managed to get to his landmark before his partners deserted him.
Jacobs continued the batting woes of wicket-keepers in the series by edging his fourth ball to the keeper off Nehra, who soon bounced out Dillon.
Harbhajan, otherwise ineffective on the true pitch, then removed Pedro Collins and No.10 Adam Sanford with successive balls.
Cuffy denied him his second Test hat-trick by edging a single past slip, but he promptly and comically ran himself out at the non-striker's end, scampering for a run that Chanderpaul refused and then stumbling as Harbhajan broke the stumps.
On the ground where he recorded his first Test hundred in the corresponding Test against India five years ago, Chanderpaul's innings of six hours, 10 minutes were chanceless and authoritative.
The West Indies won then in a tight finish. They should so do again with much more comfort.