Sublime Bravo makes India pay
You know the dice are loaded in favour of batsmen when a bowler that's taken four wickets in the innings speaks of feeling 'cheated' at the lack of bounce on offer. That said, few expected a West Indies batting line-up missing its only experienced campaigner - Shivnarine Chanderpaul - to make India toil more than six sessions to dismiss them. But with Darren Bravo crafting a marvellous 166 and sterling support from Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell and Marlon Samuels, the hosts were left to play catch-up all day.
Bravo was reprieved on the first evening when he had 33 - a low chance to Rahul Dravid's left at slip - and India were given ample time to regret that lapse as he continued his stupendous form on this tour of the subcontinent. In Kolkata, his 136 had been about saving face. Here, having come in after the openers gave the team a tremendous start, he could set the tempo. "Once he's set, he can be an ominous batsman to bowl to," said R Ashwin, who spent much of the press conference speaking about the "disheartening" nature of a pitch that he once thought of as the "most sporting in India".
Having fallen for 195 in Bangladesh, it appeared as though a double-century was on the cards for Bravo when he had a swipe at a Varun Aaron delivery that angled across him. "I became a little tired," he said. "I've had a bit of flu and that took its toll on me."
Till then, though, he had seldom been troubled, unveiling some lovely drives and whiplash cuts when the opportunity presented itself. Ashwin kept offering the bait outside off stump, but he was seldom tempted. When the ball pitched in line, he made sure the bat was well in front of pad.
Once they survived the second new ball, he and Edwards piled on the agony, one all left-handed elegance and the other a muscular right-hander with a no-nonsense style that reminded some of Clive Lloyd.
Powell was no less impressive, announcing his intent with an audacious loft down to the sightscreen. At one point, he had 28 from 28 balls and it needed a superb afternoon spell from Aaron to drag the hosts back into the game.
"Kirk's finding his feet in the international game," said Bravo. "He and I have a good understanding when we bat together." Their cause was undoubtedly helped by a sizeable opening partnership. "We just had to continue where they left off," said Bravo.
Having lost two Tests as a result of poor shot selection and losing wickets in clusters, West Indies will look at this scorecard with great satisfaction. Bravo stole the headlines, prompting more Brian Lara comparisons, but over six sessions, five others also stood tall and ensured that they were counted.
Bravo and West Indies now find themselves in a position from where they can dictate terms. "We'll go out there with high energy and see what our fast bowlers can do," he said, looking ahead to the prospect of an all-too-rare victory away from home. "It's a decent batting wicket, but there's a bit of turn. It played much better today. If you apply yourself, there are runs to be had."
Bravo illustrated that, with a fluency and swagger that suggested we should see a lot more of him in the years to come.