Ishant, Samuels shine on rain-hit day
Ishant Sharma came up with one of the best bowling efforts of his 33-Test career to secure India an advantage on the third day. In doing so, he became the fifth-youngest to 100 Test wickets, registered his second five-for and also personal best figures. Marlon Samuels, looking for a second life as a Test cricketer, showed he appreciated the struggles, curbing his natural attacking style to survive good bowling on a tough pitch under overcast skies. But he was left stranded as Ishant ran through the lower order with a mid-afternoon spell of 4.4-2-6-3.
A wrong replay and gloomy weather have loomed over this Test, but Ishant and Samuels did their bit to focus the attention back on bat and ball. Only 42 overs of play were possible on the third day, an improvement of 16.3 overs from day two, but whatever time we had on the field was tense.
Ishant and Praveen Kumar were the ideal bounce-and-swing combination in the morning. Ishant, though, was clearly the more threatening bowler. He used the bouncer well, never got carried away with the assistance available, and kept squashing premeditation by slipping in full inswingers. He used the seam like a veteran. He held the ball across the seam to generate extra bounce, and along it when he wanted swing. And then there were the balls that held their lines.
Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul showed remarkable defensive skill and discipline to add 77 for the sixth wicket, taking their side to a position where they could think of a first-innings lead. Ishant hit both of them on the helmet in his probing first spell of 7-1-18-0. Chanderpaul perhaps wanted him out of his face and tried hooking, only to beaten by the pace. Samuels got hit even as he tried to sway out of the line to a bouncer that jagged nastily back in.
Samuels actually managed to look more solid than Chanderpaul, playing late, with soft hands, and not committing to any shots. The leaves outside off were precise, as was the pouncing on anything short and wide. Forty-three of his 78 runs came behind square on the off side.
Having seen the threat of Ishant off, Chanderpaul seemed to have relaxed a touch. It could be argued that Abhimanyu Mithun benefited from the pressure created by Ishant when Chanderpaul went to pull one that wasn't short enough, playing on for a hard-fought 37. What made it worse for West Indies was that it came minutes before lunch. Soon after lunch, Carlton Baugh went driving at a wide Harbhajan Singh delivery, and Rahul Dravid completed a superb slip catch despite his view being obstructed by the wicketkeeper.
Samuels was still going strong, and Darren Sammy applied himself too. They added 43 for the eighth wicket, but Ishant's comeback turned things around. Even with a 65-over-old ball, bowling to a man batting on 65, he often went past the edge and troubled the batsmen with the bouncers. In the fourth over of that spell, he ran into some much-deserved luck when Sammy played a whip against the run of play, and was out lbw. It wasn't the best ball Ishant bowled, but was just reward for probing bowling. Before he could start the fifth over of that spell, another shower sent the players off the field. When they returned Ishant finished off the tail with two bouncers: Ravi Rampaul was caught at gully, Fidel Edwards down the leg side, off the arm guard.
Fifteen minutes before scheduled tea, another shower arrived at the Kensington Oval, and bad light took care of all but four balls of the final session.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo