West Indies face daunting task ahead
India's inexorable march in the second Test was checked only by a Gros Islet-special brief thundershower and Brian Lara elevating himself to No.3 in West Indies' second innings. India skittled out West Indies for just 215, enforced the follow-on and had them on the run at 43 for 1, still 330 behind at stumps on the third day. It was a day when India's bowlers incessantly kept the pressure on, and the wickets came as quickly as you could expect on a pitch that was still not unplayable.
When the day began India certainly had the upper hand, but no illusions that they could simply brush the opposition aside. The pitch had a hint of uneven bounce, and afforded lateral movement, but neither with sufficient intensity nor regularity to foretell a rout. Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were the key, both individually and collectively, just as runscoring, in tandem with occupation of the crease, was West Indies' only shot at salvation.
When Anil Kumble bounded in for his first over, bang on target, the ball dipping late, pitching in line, forcing the batsman to play, it was obvious that it was a case of when, rather than if, a wicket would fall. To their credit Chanderpaul and Gayle hung around for a while. Chanderpaul has been in good nick and was remarkably fluent given the situation and conditions, but Gayle struggled to even add to his overnight score, finally managing a slashed boundary over gully.
For a time Gayle was held on a tight leash by the bowlers and his reaction was predictable - a powerful yet premeditated and chancy heave over midwicket for six. Kumble did not enjoy being treated that way, and two balls later had his fist-pumping revenge, as he induced a prod that resulted in an edge to Mahendra Dhoni. Gayle had made 46 in a partnership with Chanderpaul that lasted 23.3 overs.
With Gayle gone in the very first session, the workload on Chanderpaul increased exponentially, but on the day he was not up to the task. Chanderpaul fell right over a full one from Irfan Pathan and could not get bat around pad in time to stop the ball from crashing into the pad bang in front of the stumps, and a second wicket had fallen on with the score on 106.
With one eye on the horizon - not so much for the beautiful hillocks that dot the region, but for the dark clouds occasionally threatening to stop play - Rahul Dravid had little option but to enforce the follow-on if the opportunity arose, and therefore ensured that none of the fast bowlers operated in long spells. It paid off well for him. The bowlers simply needed to put the ball in the right areas and wait, given that West Indies' lower-order batsmen were in no position to bat normally with an aim to scoring runs.
Dwayne Bravo, the last recognised batsman, and Denesh Ramdin, a more than handy bat, stood between India and the tail for 61 runs. Kumble got a quick one to turn from leg and a squared-up Bravo could only edge to Dravid at slip, who stayed low and took a good catch. Ramdin succumbed soon after, driving at a wide one from Patel and could only spear an outside edge which Dhoni caught, diving to his right. At 178 for 7 India were into the tail, and Dravid threw the ball to Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag, loping in lazily, not hesitating to round the stumps, got the ball to drift in beautifully and turn away, and ensured that India did not regret not playing an extra spinner. His crafty offspin was too much for the tail, and he bagged the last three wickets to fall, including an athletic effort when he leapt to his right and snatched a one-handed caught-and-bowled to dismiss Ian Bradshaw and end the West Indian innings on 215. The 373 lead was India's highest ever lead outside the subcontinent, bettering the 355 in Headingley in 2002, the second highest overseas, and the fourth highest in all Tests.
West Indies then got off to the worst possible start in their second dig, with Gayle departing in the first over of the innings. Pathan got the ball to swing rightaway and Gayle's forward prod, feet rooted to the crease, only resulted in a thin edge to Dhoni. At 2 for 1 West Indies were in deep trouble, and out walked Lara, promoting himself up the order to face the challenge square on. His obvious class and vast experience was just what West Indies needed. He was able to blunt the early threat posed by Pathan and Patel, both of whom were swinging the ball, and also that of Kumble, who was brought on in the 15th over. Daren Ganga kept Lara good company when finally bad light and rain brought them respite at the end of the third day's play.
Chris Gayle c Dhoni b Kumble 46 (106 for 4)
Prodded and edged to the keeper
Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw b Pathan 30 (106 for 5)
Fell over and missed a straight one
Dwayne Bravo c Dravid b Kumble 25 (167 for 6)
Squared up by a quick one that turned a bit
Denesh Ramdin c Dhoni b Patel 30 (178 for 7)
Drove at a widish ball and edged to the keeper
Jerome Taylor c Kaif b Sehwag 23 (209 for 8)
Holed out to midwicket
Pedro Collins c Dravid b Sehwag 0 (210 for 8)
Straightforward edge to slip
Ian Bradshaw c & b Sehwag 20 (215 for 10)
Superbly caught and bowled by Sehwag diving to his right
West Indies follow-on
Chris Gayle c Dhoni b Pathan 2 (2 for 1)
Poked at a ball that swung away and only managed an outside edge
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo