October 12, 2002

Harbhajan sends West Indies hurtling to their doom

India completed their first-ever innings victory over the West Indies when Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble shared all ten second innings wickets to skittle out the men from the Caribbean for 188 before tea at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. Ahead of the Test series, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had insisted that the newly re-laid wickets at all major centres would be sporting wickets. Well, Sourav Ganguly would not complain about the Mumbai wicket after his side won by an innings and 112 runs.

It was Harbhajan who completed the formalities when he scalped the last two West Indian wickets after lunch and ended with figures 7/48. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (36 not out, 116 balls, 5 fours), workmanlike and thorough as ever, was the lone warrior who defied the Indians. By comprehensively dominating the West Indians on all the four days, India have wrested the initiative in this series. The hosts now lead the three-Test series 1-0.

From the start of the day, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan began to snare one West Indian batsman after the other by weaving a fine and intricate spin web. West Indies, beginning the day on 91/1, slipped to a sorry 188 all out a short while after lunch.

Harbhajan, who picked up the wicket of Wavell Hinds on the third day, added six more to his tally, notching up the tenth five-wicket haul of his 29-match career. Chris Gayle (42) was the first to go, scooping a catch to Sourav Ganguly.

Anil Kumble, then, stepped in smartly to remove Ramnaresh Sarwan (17) when he had him caught by Tendulkar in the 38th over of the innings. Carl Hooper, the one man who could put together a meaningful partnership with Chanderpaul, fell early, caught and bowled by Harbhajan Singh for just one.

Then came a Kumble double blow. In the 46th over, the Karnataka leggie sent Ryan Hinds (2) and Ridley Jacobs (0) packing off consecutive balls. The hat-trick was avoided by Mahendra Nagamootoo. Showing some resistance, Nagamootoo struck three boundaries in his knock of 18, before his attempt to work Harbhajan to the on side ended in him edging a catch to gully.

Next man Merv Dillon did not trouble the scorers; after playing just four balls, he presented Dravid at slip with an easy catch and Harbhajan with a five-wicket haul.

The lunch break offered a temporary respite for the West Indians but a short while after the players had returned to the field, Harbhajan had Pedro Collins caught at slip off one that went straight on and followed it up by drawing last man Cameron Cuffy into a false shot. The medium-pacer tapped a well-flighted delivery straight back to Harbhajan.

Even before the umpire could lift his finger, Harbhajan Singh plucked a stump out of the ground and began to celebrate. The young offie has always been an exuberant character and he is simply unstoppable when he gets a good rhythm going. A seven-wicket haul is just what he and India need at the start of the series. When they head to Chennai for the second Test that begins on the 17th, the men from the Caribbean better be wary; once again it will be the Indian spinners up to their old tricks on a new surface.