Fourth Test

West Indies v India, 2005-06

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

At Kingston, June 30, July 1, 2, 2006. India won by 49 runs. Toss: India.

India prevailed in a three-day scrap, winning a series in the Caribbean for the first time in 35 years and, more significantly, beating serious opposition outside the subcontinent for the first time since 1986. The bowlers, who had endured meandering, batsman-dominated cricket for nearly a month, finally had their say on a bouncy, unpredictable pitch at Sabina Park. It demanded technique and application from the batsmen, and they all stood exposed - except one.

India won because of their captain. Dravid showed that batting was not about bullying on featherbeds but about footwork, skill and assurance in difficult conditions. Without his two masterful efforts the result would probably have been reversed. If his 81 on the first day was executed with a shield - he dodged the dangerous deliveries and kept out the straight ones - his second-innings 68 was played with a sword. On the second afternoon, with West Indies threatening, he played the defining innings of the series. Deliveries that were unplayable for the rest seemed routine for Dravid; calm amid the frenzy, he was troubled only once before he was out, while the others seemed to be guessing.

Jerome Taylor, who grew up in the nearby parish of St Elizabeth, began the game with an incisive maiden five-for, bundling India out for 200 on the first day. His lean frame belied his strength: he hustled the batsmen with his clever use of the bouncer, surprised Yuvraj with a darting yorker, and had Kaif jumping as if on springs. After a sluggish start to his Test career - five wickets in his first five Tests - Taylor was finally taking off. His four wickets on a placid St Kitts pitch showed his potential, but nine here showed his class. But even he could not prevent Dravid and Kumble, for years India's staunchest, producing the crucial partnership: 93 for the seventh wicket.

Statistics did not favour India - no team had won after making 200 or less in the opening innings of a Test at Sabina - but on this surface they had a distinct edge. Harbhajan took five wickets in just 27 balls as most of the batsmen confused aggression with recklessness. Once Sreesanth had removed Lara with a snorter that lifted off a good length, the spinners quickly gobbled up the rest. Against deliveries that kept low, and some that turned viciously, West Indies' attacking methods stood no chance.

Lara had hoped they would bat for two days; they didn't even manage two sessions. Taylor did not relent in the second innings, and Collymore carried on his affair with Sabina Park, extending his tally to 27 wickets at 12.55 in four Tests there. Lack of bounce helped: three batsmen, including the well-set Dravid, stood little chance against ankle-high shooters. India's 171 was their lowest total of the series, but an overall lead of 268 was worth a hundred more.

Gayle bagged a pair, which rounded off a miserable game for the two No. 1s: two runs between them. Lara's dismissal, which left his side tottering at 29 for three, seemed to herald the end, but West Indies then threatened an extraordinary comeback. Sarwan's in-your-face straight-drives, Bravo's audacious slog-sweeps and Ramdin's general daring gave them a faint chance. Ramdin farmed the strike, and even lofted Kumble into the scaffolding in the North Stand. The Jamaican crowd, who had long championed their own wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh, acknowledged the Trinidadian Ramdin's 68-ball fifty with a standing ovation.

But West Indies did not quite make it. And Kumble, the only Indian player born before April 1971, when India last won a series in the Caribbean, nailed the final wicket.

Man of the Match: R. Dravid. Man of the Series: R. Dravid.

© John Wisden & Co.