Windies wobble as India amass 588
A solid, if not spectacular, batting performance including a 23rd Test century for Rahul Dravid and a maiden Test century for Mohammad Kaif, followed by an incisive opening spell from Munaf Patel where he picked up two wickets in two balls saw India take a firm grasp on the second Test against West Indies at the Beausejour Stadium in Gros Islet, St. Lucia. Anil Kumble, never one to be left out, claimed the prize wicket of Brian Lara and West Indies were tottering at 65 for 3 in reply to India's mammoth 588 for 8 declared.
The pitch, which had played so true when India batted that the ball barely beat bat, began to do just a bit, with the ball gripping the surface just enough to afford the faster men cut and the spinner turn when India took the ball. It certainly helped that Patel was dead on target, probing away on a line attacking the stumps, seam slanting towards leg slip, the length drawing batsmen forward and yet not affording the drive. Daren Ganga was the first to suffer, trapped in front by a ball that nipped back a touch. Ramnaresh Sarwan barely had time to mark his guard when an identical delivery sent him packing, for a golden duck.
Lara was well up to negotiating the hat-trick ball, and soon showed the difference in class with a beautifully struck square-drive. However, Dravid, occasionally late in bringing on the spinner, got his timing spot on, throwing the ball to Kumble in the 13th over. It did not take long for Kumble to get a ball to pitch on off and straighten, and Lara's gentle pretence of a defensive shot did not fool Asad Rauf, the umpire, as the ball that was destined for middle- and leg-stump was obstructed by pad. At 55 for 3 the follow-on target of 388 suddenly looked far away.
Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul - the pair that had put the skids on India in the first Test - came together, and despite more than one close shout for lbw, managed to add ten more runs and take West Indies to stumps without further damage. Even on good batting surfaces, teams can come under serious pressure when faced with a daunting total.
India, to their credit, made the most of the fine start that Virender Sehwag had given them, and ensured that a mountain of runs confronted the West Indies when it was their turn to bat. Resuming play today morning Dravid easily knocked off the five runs he needed to reach his hundred, and then in the company of Kaif, built a partnership that made West Indian shoulders droop.
Lara did his best to set defensive off-side fields, but without either serious pace or effervescent turn, could not control the flow of runs with two patient batsmen at the crease. Dravid ensured that no loose ball was spared, driving magnificently through cover, and Kaif too played punchy drives that were placed well enough to beat the infield and find the boundary. As many as 124 runs came in the first session, and the firm of Dravid and Kaif had put together an invaluable 179 before they were separated. Just two balls before lunch Dravid chased a desperately wide, short delivery from Ramnaresh Sarwan, and spooned a catch to point. Dravid had made a flawless 146 till he played that forgettable shot to a ball that even Sarwan would not care to remember.
Kaif first crossed his highest Test score - 91 versus England - to reach three figures and finally ended on a first-class high of 148 not out. His was an innings in two parts - reasonably fluent and purposeful till he reached his century, and when he had Dravid for company, and then somewhat tentative and dour for the remainder. Mahendra Dhoni failed to fire, slapping Ian Bradshaw to point, and all of a sudden India had lost the momentum. Irfan Pathan went soon after, hitting Gayle to Ganga at point, and it was only a matter of time before India declared. When Kumble dragged Jerome Taylor back to his stumps, with the score on 588, Dravid waved Kaif back in, declaring the innings closed. India wanted a crack at the West Indies batsmen who had been made to sweat out close to 150 overs in the field, and perhaps pick up a few quick wickets. They did just that, and will enjoy a good night's rest before returning to rejoin battle on the third day. West Indies, three down and still needing 323 to avoid the follow-on, may not sleep so easy.
Rahul Dravid c Lara b Sarwan 146 (485 for 5)
Chased a wide, short ball and popped a catch to point
Mahendra Dhoni c Ganga b Bradshaw 9 (517 for 6)
Scooped a full ball to point
Irfan Pathan c Ganga b Gayle 19 (555 for 7)
Uppishly chipped to point
Anil Kumble b Taylor 14 (588 for 8)
Dragged a delivery that bounced a touch extra back onto his stumps
Daren Ganga lbw b Patel 16 (36 for 1)
Trapped in front by a ball that pitched and cut in
Ramnaresh Sarwan lbw b Patel 0 (36 for 2)
Identical to Ganga, first ball
Brian Lara lbw b Kumble 7 (55 for 3)
Padded up to one that pitched on the stumps and straightened
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo