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Sriram Veera at Sabina Park
June 20, 2011
It's one of those days when both teams would have hit the bed reasonably satisfied. But there will be enough doubts lingering inside to make them wary about the next morning. India would take 246 from the depths of 85 for 6. West Indies would have taken 246 all out at the start of the day. But both will want to guard themselves against a slip-up.
For some time now, India have been used to winning. For some time now West Indies have been used to losing. If the pitch continues to take considerable turn, and remain two-paced, India will be happy even if they concede a 50-run lead. They can always make it up in the third innings and leave West Indies with a target to chase on a wearing track. If West Indies manage to take a sizeable lead, then they can suffocate India with pressure. It's Test cricket 101 and both camps tried their hand at it.
"We would look to get at least 400 and bat once," Fidel Edwards said. "It won't be easy for them tomorrow," Suresh Raina said when his turn came. "It will turn more, especially in the fourth innings." Raina even slipped in a jab: "Couple of their batsmen don't know how to play spin bowling." The only points where their views merged was in their praise of Devendra Bishoo, the man who set off the dramatic events by packing off Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and MS Dhoni in 14 deliveries. "He is a star," Edwards added, "I was impressed with him. He took three early wickets and then took a very good catch in the end."
Edwards rarely raises his voice in the press meets. He rarely talks much in the middle too. He stares at the batsmen often and likes to bowl either short or go full. The in-between length doesn't quite feature often in his world and he probably isn't easy to hit with his action. When he finds those spots, he can be a real handful as Virat Kohli found out when a delivery shaped away from a length and sucked him in to a lame prod.
Edwards was told last evening that he would play and he admitted he was a "bit nervous" in his first spell. It was his comeback after all and by his own admission he didn't make the batsmen play that much early on because he "didn't have much match practice". The four-wicket haul would have been heart-warming, as there would have been enormous pressure on him after replacing Kemar Roach. "It must have been hard [for Roach]; I was glad that I was playing. It felt really good to do well. It was good to come back after missing out on so much Test cricket."
Edwards was the finisher, it was Bishoo who left India in trouble. In the end, Bishoo didn't need to set up India's top-order batsman. His stock ball, the legbreak, did the job on its own without any elaborate planning. In 14 deliveries, with the wickets of Laxman, Dravid and Dhoni, he had driven a spear through India's heart.
It came as a bit of a surprise. It's not that Bishoo didn't bowl well; he bowled really well, but the Indian top-order fell without much fight. Laxman drove loosely at the first ball he faced from Bishoo; Dhoni stabbed out at his first delivery. The best ball was the one that removed Dravid. He slipped couple of deliveries short in that over and Dravid put them away to the boundary with utter ease. Then Bishoo tossed one up and got it to dip and turn. It was tempting, even for Dravid, who rarely hits three fours in an over in Test match cricket. He leaned forward into a drive, went too hard into it and didn't quite cover for the turn.
It was at this stage that Harbhajan Singh counterpunched and lifted the pressure off Raina's shoulder. "We just told each other that we would spend as much time as possible [at the crease]," Raina said. "They have two main bowlers and we just wanted to bat long as possible." They did that to drag India back into the game. With West Indies' vulnerability against spin, as was evident in the Pakistan series, and the track taking turn, no side at this stage has an outright advantage.
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