West Indies v India, 3rd Test, St Lucia, 1st day August 9, 2016

Tide begins to rise for West Indies pace unit

West Indies opened the four-Test series in Antigua with a not-so-fast bowling attack ground down by India's batsmen, but the promising debuts of Miguel Cummins in Jamaica and Alzarri Joseph in St Lucia have them riding a new wave out of that early trough
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A kicking, screaming short ball, too fast and too close to the batsman for a proper response. Was he cutting, punching, or defending? It seemed an awkward and only partially intentional combination of all three, and before he knew it Virat Kohli was gone, caught at first slip.

Two genuine quicks sharing the new ball, another waiting to bowl. A fast, bouncy pitch, and a picturesque backdrop, in this case the Beausejour Hills with a manually operated scoreboard in front of it, saying 19 for 2. This, belatedly, was an echo of the West Indies that cricket fans have known and loved.

Miguel Cummins had been in the squad since the first Test, but had only been part of their attack since the second. Alzarri Joseph had been in the squad since the second Test, but was only now making his debut, and was only now getting to bounce out India's captain and best batsman. On the final day of the Sabina Park Test, West Indies had glimpsed a middle order with the potential to serve them for a long time. Now they were seeing, possibly, a pace attack take shape.

Shannon Gabriel had struck first getting Shikhar Dhawan caught down the leg side, experiencing the stroke of luck his bowling has deserved all series. At the other end, Joseph gave the world a first glimpse - at senior level - of the effortless pace his lanky, loose-limbed frame could generate. He greeted Kohli with a bouncer that left him on his backside, foreshadowing the dismissal that was to come.

Later, Cummins would come on and bowl just as quick, almost none of his pace coming from his shuffling run-up and almost all of it generated by the final thrust of shoulder and arm, and attack the throats of KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane. They popped three balls in the general direction of short leg. There was no fielder in place the first time, and the ball eluded him narrowly the next two times. India, playing with only five batsmen for the third time in the series - and on this occasion shuffling two of them out of position - were being seriously tested for the first time, from both ends, with little respite.

It wasn't all short and brutal. In the second session, West Indies' seamers came out with an entirely different plan, and tested India's patience in the corridor. Jason Holder, who has done this all series, was expected to bowl this way, but perhaps not Joseph in his first Test. He bowled eleven straight dot balls to Rohit Sharma after lunch, the bulk of them outside off stump, on a good length or just short of it, and bat came feeling for ball against the 12th ball, which straightened just enough to take the edge.

West Indies had three genuine fast bowlers and a medium-paced fourth seamer, and all of them were doing their bit. They were bowling on the quickest surface of the series. Yet, by the end of the day, their busiest bowler was their offspinner, Roston Chase. At stumps, his figures read 23-8-38-2.

Shortly before lunch, Chase had dismissed Rahul against the run of play. His best work, however, came between lunch and tea, when he sent down an eight-over spell that only cost his side nine runs and built enough frustration to pry out India's last specialist batsman, Rahane.

In that spell, Chase bowled quickish offbreaks on a stump-to-stump line, with the leg side heavily guarded. The six leg-side fielders were, typically, a short leg, a mid-on who would occasionally drop back to long-on, two midwickets - one straighter and close to the bat, the other squarer and slightly deeper - square leg and short fine leg. The only fielders on the off side were mid-off, extra cover and slip.

Given the situation they were in, and Chase's line, India couldn't risk the sweep, particularly on a bouncy pitch with short fine leg waiting for the top edge. This allowed West Indies to suffocate India further with square leg saving the single rather than stationed on the boundary.

Alzarri Joseph let loose with the short ball on debut and used it to claim Virat Kohli for his maiden Test wicket © AFP

Of the 39 balls Chase bowled to Rahane and R Ashwin between lunch and tea, the batsmen played 20 into the leg side, for five runs, and 18 into the off side - 15 of them either towards mid-off or cover - for four runs. Chase hardly overpitched, and almost never dropped short enough to cut through the vacant region stretching from point to third man, or to pull over square leg.

Something had to give and it was Rahane's patience. Over the course of Chase's spell, he had gone from 32 off 96 balls to 35 off 132. Out came the sweep, against a slow, loopy delivery that was a full toss if he hit it and a yorker if he missed. It was either the wrong ball for the sweep - its steep downward trajectory minimising the horizontal bat's margin for error - or just poor execution. The ball dipped, eluded Rahane's bat, and bowled him. India were 126 for 5.

On a first-day pitch with little help for his offspin, Chase had done far more than anyone may have expected. He gave nothing away, bowled more overs than anyone else, and allowed the quicks to bowl shorter, sharper spells.

West Indies may have found a group of promising fast bowlers, though no one at this stage would be silly enough to compare any of them to the greats of the 1980s. But they may just have unearthed a tall, restrictive offspinner not unlike Roger Harper. In the West Indies side he played for, Harper only needed to bowl around 15 overs an innings, but performed that task admirably, ending up as his team's most economical bowler of the 80s while maintaining a sub-30 bowling average.

On Tuesday's evidence, Chase could do a similar job with the ball while offering far more with the bat. If West Indies build on the promise of their fast bowlers, they might yet assemble a consistently dangerous Test-match attack.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dessy on August 11, 2016, 23:41 GMT

    Four real Quicks, Who is Leveridge? Never heard of him. Russel like Pollard has indicated that he has serious problems with his knees and can not play four/five day cricket.Holder can play as a pure batsman and Chemar Holder or Joffara Archer as the fourth fast bowler.

  • Riddymon on August 10, 2016, 23:21 GMT

    Although Cummins got 3 wickets today he was basically the most wayward of the three fast bowlers. We need to get someone experienced in to lead the attack. I say bring back Kemar Roach/Rampaul to bowl alongside Gabriel and Joseph. Loving the current attack though...with Holder playing the containing role as the 4th bowler (cummins aside) this bowling unit is looking much more dangerous. If they can get India on the back foot, we should be able to continue this trend with other teams.

  • niazbhi on August 10, 2016, 19:46 GMT

    WI should bring in Russel in place of Holder. Russel is a better bowler and a better batsman. With Gabreil, Joseph and Cummins being the top 3.. Russel fits in nice as a 4th quick. Holder does not get wickets. With Chase, all the quicks get enough rests. They can be a fairly decent side if quicks bowl well. They have decent spinners as backups.

  • Danial on August 10, 2016, 19:31 GMT

    another talented bowler, jofra archer, has had a 5 wicket haul in his first 3 one day games already in county cricket. along with 9 wickets in his first 2 fc matches and is not bad with the bat as well. his addition will make a pretty good windies bowling unit. the only thing the windies need is another good batsman and they are not a bad test side

  • BrianCharlesVivek on August 10, 2016, 14:56 GMT

    Along with the promising West Indian fast bwlers, there is also a promising writer in the form of Karthik Krishnaswamy . Excellent neutral analysis giving credit where due yet cautious , cynical yet unbiased and emotionless.

  • Cricinfouser on August 10, 2016, 13:24 GMT

    I'm all for youngsters but keep them grounded. It makes no sense pushing them too hard and getting their heads filled. It's ok to tell a youngster he can do well but a tearaway at youth level can be easily discouraged when the first morning of a test match his 85 mph deliveries are being met with a nonchalance he's never seen or pulled through mid wicket off the front foot. Let em grow...let em grow..

  • Jose...P on August 10, 2016, 11:38 GMT

    I ran out of space to comment on @Rahul's point on India's declining ability to tackle good spinners.

    The first time that issue opened up for a wider view was when Swann & Monty exposed that weakness of our batsmen. And, that wasn't the last time either.

    And, I also feel that it is more of an issue with the attitude and approach, than techniques per say.

    However, if it is not addressed and tackled soon enough, the long line up of the guests we are expecting in our backyards, next calendar year (not too far off) may prove that even Sri Lankans are far better than us in tackling spinners of some decent calibre.

  • Jose...P on August 10, 2016, 11:13 GMT

    I agree with assessment of @Rahul_78 on August 10, 2016, 4:51 GMT.

    Some may say that Alzari & Gabriel got assistance from the fresh pitch in the first session. But we should remember two facts.

    1. Unless the pitch is kept bone dry, most of the pitches around the world will ave some juice in the first hour or two on the first day.

    2. The way the two bowlers bowled is also ominous for the Indian batsmen. Bowlers from other teams could have noticed the same. Even if they are of the same calibre of these two (could be even better) India could have a spot of bother. These two, just didn't give any arm/elbow room, and aimed at the throat, ball after ball. To such a surprise, even someone like Kohli was tied down to knots. Kohli may be able to counter that in another round, or against other bowlers with the same tactic, but I am not sure about many other Indian batsmen.

    From the Indian side, I saw only Shami doing that with some accuracy & consistency, as we saw against Bravo.

  • Beertjie on August 10, 2016, 11:10 GMT

    Please read the writer's words again, @Humdingers & @MrHamilton: "though no one at this stage would be silly enough to compare any of them to the greats of the 1980s." Why impute the opposite views to the writer? Anyway, I agree with your suggestion for the selectors to discard Samuels and get Carlos Braithwaite and Andre Russell into the team (although it seems that the latter is reluctant to play tests so that would seem to be out. Building a team for the future may just be getting on track as all test cricket fans devoutly wish. I hope they find an opener to partner Kraigg Brathwaite.

  • FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on August 10, 2016, 10:40 GMT

    Ray Jordan, Chemar Holder and even the reltively unknown Jamaican giant, Leveridge, are all hot prospects that are waiting in the wings. The cupboard is far from bare, yet administration and management need to understand that they cannot relax just as the promise is shown, it needs to be nurtered correctly and appropriately for it to grow and help establish a dangerous attack for years to come. Lively wickets is a major pint that has largely been ignored in the past decade or more...with the region focused more on slow turners and attritional cricket - NOT the West Indian way at all...time to get back to what the Windies does best...and also help bring back the crowds by encoraging attacking strokeplay, exciting bowling and aggressive cricket. Well done Alzarri Joseph, good start young man...now keep up the hard work and stay clear of the lesser format(s) and will develop into a world beater in the test arena.

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