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The Report by Abhishek Purohit
November 6, 2013
India 37 for 0 trail West Indies 234 (Samuels 65, Shami 4-71) by 197 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Post-lunch session. A big partnership getting bigger. Suddenly, the game turns on its head. How often has reverse swing done that to a match on the subcontinent? How often have West Indies self-destructed? The umpires changed the ball after 40 overs at Eden Gardens, the replacement reversed appreciably, and the debutant Mohammed Shami bowled Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin in successive overs. In between those dismissals, Darren Bravo ran himself out and Darren Sammy torpedoed his own counter-attack, and the promising advantage of 138 for 2 lay squandered. Soon, Shami uprooted fellow debutant Sheldon Cottrell's off stump to end the innings on 234 and finish with four wickets.
Shami was the form bowler from the recent ODI series against Australia, and was handed a debut ahead of the experienced Ishant Sharma - who ironically presented Shami with his Test cap - and the quicker Umesh Yadav. And how he repaid his captain's faith. Shami bowled consistently in the late 130s on a slow pitch, and was a different proposition with the ball scuffed up, finding movement that had not been there for him with the new one.
It was a proper bat-first pitch at Eden Gardens, slightly uneven and expected to deteriorate later. There was little threat from the new ball and the lack of pace also hampered the spinners. The West Indies openers, however, failed to capitalise on favourable conditions and departed within the first hour. A tentative Chris Gayle succumbed to Bhuvneshwar Kumar's away-swing, and the solid Kieran Powell was done in on the pull by Shami's pace.
Samuels and Bravo put on 91 for the third wicket to bring West Indies back. Bravo came in to defend and defend, while Samuels took care of the scoring, hitting 56 of his brisk 65 in boundaries before his dismissal sparked the collapse. Every now and then both batsmen attacked the spinners, who were not much of a worry despite the odd delivery turning or kicking or keeping low. Samuels continued to pierce the off-side field against the quicks.
It was Samuels' desire to keep hitting off the back foot that gave India the opening. Even as Samuels set himself up for a punch through the off side, Shami swerved one through the gate from good length. In the next over Bravo, having resolutely blocked his way to 23 off 96, decided now was the time for a casual single to square leg, even though there was a fielder there and though Shivnarine Chanderpaul wasn't interested. Suicidal was the only word for it. In the next over, with so much reverse happening, West Indies realised having a keeper batting at No 6 wasn't ideal. Feet not moving, Ramdin was caught on the crease as another one zipped in late. He belatedly tried to chop it, but it had sneaked through by then.
At the other end, Pragyan Ojha was cursing his luck. He'd had Samuels, on 60, dropped by Dhoni, then had a close leg-before shout turned down against Sammy. But Ojha did not have to wait for too long because the West Indies captain gave it away. With long-off on the boundary, Sammy tried sending Ojha over, only to find the fielder with precision.
In his 199th Test, Sachin Tendulkar gave a disappointingly moderate Eden crowd another reason to cheer at the stroke of tea. Landing his legbreaks and googlies with control in his opening over, Tendulkar trapped Shane Shillingford - also dropped by Dhoni off Ojha - in front for his 46th Test wicket. Chanderpaul, playing his 149th Test, was left to survey and salvage something from another familiar West Indies collapse. He tried to do it his way, turning the strike over and trusting the tail. But R Ashwin eventually sneaked an offbreak past his back-foot defence to end his resistance on 36.
India's openers brought the deficit below 200 in the 12 overs they faced. Tino Best and Sheldon Cottrell, in particular, worked up plenty of pace but did not make the batsmen play enough. They also overdid the short ball, which, despite their speeds, was safely defended or avoided on this pitch. Shillingford sent down a few steady overs, but India's real test will come when the ball starts to reverse.
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