Sylvester Joseph defies Indians
A well-controlled hundred by Sylvester Joseph partly exposed the inadequacies of the Indians' bowling line-up as he led Antigua to a healthy 300 on the opening day of the practice game at the Police Recreation Ground. On a day when only one of his team-mates crossed 30, Joseph spanked 15 fours and two sixes and often made the Indian bowling attack look pedestrian.
In a game where a draw was a foregone conclusion, considering that it was only a two-day affair, Joseph did his bit to deny the Indians any psychological advantage. Nicknamed "Bouncing", Joseph is a hero in these parts, with several close observers feeling that he's got a raw deal with regard to selection to the West Indies side. He is also acclaimed as a shrewd captain - he showed his mettle in a couple of games in the Indian Oil Cup in July last year - but someone who will probably be remembered as a nearly man of West Indian cricket.
His innings today was composed of two parts, grafting to his fifty before rushing to his hundred. He looked in control while defending, handling the pace of Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and VRV Singh. He didn't hold back against the short stuff, rocking on to the back foot, on a pitch that offered just a bit to the bowlers, and slapped them crisply through square leg.
After the tea break, though, he made Irfan Pathan and Ramesh Powar look like club bowlers, clattering them to different corners of the quaint Police Recreation Ground. While Gregg Skepple had put Pathan in his place earlier in the afternoon - playing a major role in hammering Pathan for 32 runs in a four-over spell - Joseph took him on towards the end of the innings, making the most of some erratic dibly-dobblies. It would worry the Indian camp no end that Joseph and Kerry Skepple, the No. 11, biffed 42 in just 4.3 overs, taking the score to the 300-mark. Powar had an ordinary day as well, being tonked over the top on several occasions.
The rest of the bowling attack impressed in patches. Munaf Patel found a good length, hurrying the batsmen on a few occasions while Sreesanth, as his three wickets and five maidens testify, had a satisfying workout. Anil Kumble found a good rhythm in his nine overs, getting some deliveries to jump from a good length, while Harbhajan Singh found some turn on a flat surface.
Wasim Jaffer kickstarted the Indians' reply with a flurry of gorgeous boundaries but the locals had one more moment to cheer before close, when Anthony Martin pulled off a stunning catch off Virender Sehwag.
Antigua & Barbuda
Daniel Thomas lbw b Kumble 30 (39 for 1)
Didn't read the straighter one and was trapped in front
Michael Challenger c Dhoni b Munaf 18 (74 for 2)
Edged while attempting a cover-drive
Devon Thomas c Kaif b Pathan 21 (109 for 3)
Top-edged a pull to short midwicket
Gregg Skepple c Kaif b Harbhajan 35 (146 for 4)
Inside-edged an offbreak onto his pads; easy catch for short leg
Gavin Williams b Munaf 9 (186 for 5)
Missed a straight one trying to drive
Rolston Phillip c Sehwag b Powar 12 (227 for 6)
Holed out to long-off; sharp running catch
Kerry Mentore b Sreesanth 0 (237 for 7)
Undone by a yorker
Bertil Baltimore b Sreesanth 13 (258 for 8)
Couldn't handle a straighter one; beaten for pace
Justine Athanaze lbw b Sreesanth 0 (258 for 9)
Caught on the crease and missed one that came on
Kerry Skepple b VRV Singh 14 (300 all out)
Missed while trying to slog one
Virender Sehwag c Martin b Sanford 6 (29 for 1)
Slashed airily to point, who takes sensational catch diving left
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo