Dhoni blitz leaves Windies with a target of 392
Wasim Jaffer creamed a delightful maiden Test double-century, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni lit up the ground with some murderous hitting in an innings of 69 off 51 balls which ended with the umpires providing some farcical entertainment of their own. The fallout was an Indian declaration on 521 for 6, leaving West Indies with a target of 392. By close of play they had reached 13 without loss.
The Indian batsmen had underperformed on this tour so far, but here - on a pitch which had settled into an excellent batting strip after assisting the bowlers earlier - they found their groove, with Jaffer leading from the front with his 212. He added 203 for the third wicket with Rahul Dravid (62), while Yuvraj Singh (39) and Mohammad Kaif (46 not out) added valuable runs as well.
West Indies clearly had the worse of the day, but they had a hero as well in Ian Bradshaw, who bowled with exceptional control and stamina, sending down an incredible 25 overs at a stretch - interrupted only by the lunch and tea intervals. Keeping a tight leash on line and length, Bradshaw only conceded 47 in those overs, covering up superbly for the absent Fidel Edwards, and finally nailing Jaffer with a fine delivery as well.
Before that ball which sneaked through his defences, though, the day had been all Jaffer's. It was a mixed innings - there were plenty of occasions when he played and missed outside off, or mistimed his strokes - but in between those blemishes, he unfurled some gorgeous strokes. Particularly impressive was his driving: when the bowlers offered him width, he leant into the ball and sent it scurrying to the cover fence; when it was straighter, he dispatched it down the ground with élan; and anything on the pads was easily put away past midwicket. The confidence of runs under his belt also showed in the manner in which he tackled Dave Mohammed, going down the pitch and hoisting him for six over long-on early in the day. He received fine support from Dravid, who buckled down and played with typical caution after showing some flourish at the start.
The rest of the bowlers primarily had a containing job to do, which they did pretty well: Yuvraj and Kaif struggled to come to terms with the lack of pace in the wicket, taking 18 overs to put together 44. When Yuvraj left, India needed more runs - and very quickly - to feel that they had enough on the board to put West Indies in to bat in the evening. Dhoni was just the man for the job.
In the one-dayers, he had only modest success, but here he was in his elements from the start. Using his powerful arms and quick footwork, he immediately took the attack to the spinners: he tonked Gayle through midwicket for four to announce his intent, then took on Mohammed, clobbering him to deep cover and then hoisting him over midwicket for two successive sixes. He showed he could be cheeky as well, nudging Gayle over the wicketkeeper's head in bizarre fashion. The finale was truly spectacular, as he launched into Mohammed for three consecutive sixes, all of them launched into the orbit with plenty of bottom hand, and all of them ending with a spectacular twirling flourish of the bat in follow through. Then he went for another six, and what followed was utter mayhem.
The ball soared towards midwicket, where Daren Ganga took the catch apparently right at the fence. The television replays were inconclusive on whether Ganga touched the ropes while taking the catch, and as Billy Doctrove, the third umpire, passed on the decision-making back to the on-field umpires, complete confusion reigned. The umpires seemed unable to decide, and finally seemed to indicate that Dhoni could bat on, only for Lara to angrily intervene. A long discussion between the umpires, Lara, and the batsmen ensued, after which Dhoni finally decided to take Ganga's word, and was declared caught for 69. That brought the Indian innings to a close, setting up the prospects of an enthralling final day.
Rahul Dravid c Bradshaw b Mohammed 62 (350 for 3)
Top-edged a sweep to deep square leg
Wasim Jaffer b Bradshaw 212 (375 for 4)
Cleaned up by one which pitched on middle and straightened
Yuvraj Singh c Chanderpaul b Gayle 39 (419 for 5)
Diving catch at extra-cover off a powerful drive
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Ganga b Mohammed 69 (521 for 6)
Caught at deep midwicket; given out after long discussions between umpires, batsman and Lara
End-of-day interactive video highlights from the Test series are available for $9.95 to Cricinfo users in the USA and Canada.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo