India move ahead on wicket-filled day
On another bowlers' day in Kingston, India swooped into a strong position after yet another West Indian batting failure, and finished 164 ahead in what is shaping up as a low-scoring Test. On a Sabina Park track that had so much turn that the spinners were wondering how to keep the ball on the stumps, the Indian fast bowlers - debutant Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma - knocked West Indies over for 173. Adrian Barath played his shots in a battling half-century but there was little from the rest of the top order.
Praveen was India's star in the morning session, though it was Ishant who made the first breakthrough, removing Ramnaresh Sarwan with his first ball of the day. With Harbhajan Singh getting the ball to spin and bounce, more early wickets looked likely but two of West Indies' emerging batting stars - Barath and Darren Bravo - defied the bowling for over an hour.
Initially the runs weren't easily available as Ishant cranked up the pace, but Barath broke free with a bunch of boundaries. Bravo too seemed to settle in, with an impressive on-the-up cover drive off Ishant, but followed it up with two nervy moments in the same over: Suresh Raina dropped a dying edge at third slip, and the next delivery reared up and nearly took the the edge.
The pair survived some more close calls, and with the first hour of the day negotiated, Barath decided to open out. Amit Mishra, the most impressive Indian bowler in the one-dayers, was greeted with a loft over long-on to bring up Barath's fifty, and the next delivery was launched into the stands in the same direction.
A change of ends for Praveen, though, transformed the session. In his first over from the Michael Holding End, he produced the ball of the morning - slanting in towards off before bouncing and jagging away, forcing Barath to play, and nick to the keeper. For a bowler who has had a long wait to make the Test grade, it was a maiden wicket to savour.
That was only the start of a spell in which he bagged three wickets in 14 deliveries. The other settled batsman, Bravo, was the next to go, with the off-stump line and the movement again resulting in a catch behind. West Indies still had two of their most adhesive batsmen at the crease, but Praveen separated them with a straight delivery to Brendan Nash, that took the leading edge to slips.
Praveen's day was blotted a touch as he was suspended from bowling soon after lunch, on getting his third warning for running on the danger area. India had started the second session poorly, sending down too many leg-side deliveries. Praveen's exit and Shivnarine Chanderpaul's presence at the crease gave West Indies fresh hope.
The three Indian specialist bowlers, however, stepped up in Praveen's absence. Ishant harried the batsmen with his accuracy, and the variable bounce and generous turn kept the batsmen wary against the spinners. Still, Carlton Baugh and Chanderpaul put on 45 before Harbhajan had Baugh tentatively poking to silly point. He removed Chanderpaul for the first time in Tests soon after, getting him to inside-edge onto the pads for an easy catch at short leg. There was some resistance from the tail-enders, though their efforts weren't enough to prevent West Indies from conceding a hefty lead.
India's batsmen then set about stretching that lead, and led the side to a comfortable position despite ducks for two of their top four. M Vijay was lbw to a short Ravi Rampaul delivery that was unplayable, rising little above knee-high. VVS Laxman had a rare double failure as his attempt to get off the mark by punching Darren Sammy down the ground ended up as a return catch.
Sammy latched on to that one, but put down one he will regret. He fluffed a simple chance at second slip - nice height, close to his body - to give Rahul Dravid a life on 6. Dravid went on to play his second important innings of the match. While these may not be in the league of 2006 Jamaican masterclasses that secured the series for India, Dravid again showcased his patience, judgment and tenacity, to finish unbeaten on 45.
In difficult conditions, he and Abhinav Mukund added 56 for the second wicket. Mukund played a cautious hand, rarely trying anything extravagant as he looked to make an impact on debut. It was slow progress, but having negotiated the bowling for nearly two hours, he lost his concentration soon after a drinks break in the final session, feathering Bishoo behind.
The other Indian debutant Virat Kohli had flopped in the first innings, and didn't have the most comfortable of times in the hour he had till stumps. With a barrage of bouncers coming his way, he was involved in a tussle with Fidel Edwards. Kohli blew a mock kiss whenever Edwards stared him down after sending down a short ball.
With Dravid at his unyielding best and the pitch remaining a brute, India will be thrilled at the quick turnaround in the fortunes after the top-order collapse on the first morning.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo