Bravo and Gayle propel Windies into the lead
After India had stodged and struggled on the first day, West Indies' batsmen showed that run-scoring wasn't so difficult on this Antigua pitch after all, rattling up 318 for 6 by close of play on the second day. Chris Gayle led the show upfront with a thunderous 72, while Dwayne Bravo continued to play the role of India's tormentor with aplomb, scoring a sparkling 68. With Ramnaresh Sarwan chipping in with a classy half-century as well, West Indies finished the day 77 in front.
If the batting performances of the two sides was a contrast, then so was the bowling displays. While West Indies' fast bowlers mostly bowled in the channel outside off and forced the batsmen into indiscretion, the Indian seamers - especially Sreesanth and VRV Singh - sprayed it liberally on both sides of the wicket, offering plenty of scoring opportunities, which Gayle and co. grabbed eagerly.
The run-deluge started early, after Daren Ganga was harshly adjudged lbw to Munaf. Gayle, who had survived a far closer shout when on 1, took on the fast bowlers with typically audacious strokes, and India's total of 241 suddenly looked even smaller. Footwork has never been his forte, and here again, Gayle backed his hand-eye coordination, going hard after the ball when offered the width. The upper-cuts came into play early as Gayle hoisted the ball well clear of the slips. That forced the bowlers to pitch it up further, and Gayle was ready with some brutally powerful shots down the ground, especially memorable being one hit off the hapless Sreesanth which cleared the long-off fence.
The early onslaught forced Rahul Dravid on the defensive - the slip cordon reduced to two, a third man was brought in - but the runs continued to flow. VRV Singh came on to bowl in the tenth over of the innings, and his initiation wasn't a memorable one: the first ball was cut away for four by Sarwan - who played an ideal second foil to Gayle in the 119-run second wicket stand - while there were two more boundaries in an over which leaked 13.
It needed Anil Kumble's guile to winkle out Gayle, but by then West Indies had already gained the initiative. India recovered somewhat when they quickly got rid of Brian Lara - who sparkled briefly for his 18, but then perished thanks to his extravagance - and Sarwan, but that was the cue for Bravo to get his act going.
Throughout this series, be it with bat or with ball, Bravo has stamped his authority on the game, and he did it here again. When he came in to bat, West Indies were 182 for 4, still 59 in the arrears. That number whittled away in quick time, as Bravo launched himself at the Indian attack. Precise in footwork, high on confidence, flawless in shot-selection, Bravo pushed India back on the defensive in a trice. His trademark shot was the flick through and over midwicket when the bowlers drifted on leg, and sometimes even when they didn't. It was effective, and it was glorious to watch - front leg going across, bat going up in a high backlift and ending with a flourish for a follow-through. Even Kumble wasn't spared as Bravo stroked him cleanly through the leg side, and played a couple of outstanding back-foot punches through cover when the length was marginally short.
The bowler who suffered most through the day, though, was Sreesanth. He was clobbered first by Gayle (29 off 27 balls), and then by Bravo (22 off 17), who once crashed him for three fours in an over - a slashed edge, a flick, and a straight-drive as Sreesanth lost all control of direction and served up a juicy full-toss. Eighty-two runs in 13 overs indicates just how much West Indies relished his offerings.
For Dravid, it was a tough day in the field. He chose to go with four bowlers, three of whom had little Test match experience, and two of whom inspired little confidence. The situation was dire enough for him to abandon his usual position in the slips and come over to mid-off to talk to his bowlers. That helped little in the case of Sreesanth and Singh - who was far too erratic to be effective - and while Munaf bowled a couple of effective spells, by the final session he was a spent force, bowling at around 120 kmph.
India's plight would have been even worse had it not been for Virender Sehwag, who got the ball to turn, bounce, and was rewarded with two wickets. The ball with which he got Bravo was a beauty - it pitched outside off, turned, bounced, and went between bat and pad as Bravo attempted a drive. Dhoni effected a superb stumping to give the Indians something to cheer about, but with a substantial lead already, and with Denesh Ramdin batting sensibly, West Indies will feel quite satisfied with the way the day panned out.
Munaf Patel b Edwards 0 (241 all out)
Beaten by a full outswinger
Daren Ganga lbw b Munaf 9 (18 for 1)
Struck marginally outside off by one which nipped back
Chris Gayle c Dravid b Kumble 72 (137 for 2)
Edged to slip
Brian Lara c Yuvraj b Munaf 18 (159 for 3)
Reached out for a drive and scooped it to point
Ramnaresh Sarwan lbw b Kumble 58 (182 for 4)
Beaten by one which straightened after pitching
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Dhoni b Sehwag 24 (255 for 5)
Edged an attempted cut
Dwayne Bravo st Dhoni b Sehwag 68 (282 for 6)
Beaten on the drive by one which turned and bounce; excellent stumping
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S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo