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The Bulletin by Anand Vasu
June 22, 2006
The fall of Chris Gayle, for an energetic 83 was the only real blip in a positive day's cricket for the West Indies where they bettered India without ever seeming to strive hard to do so. Brian Lara won the toss and chose to bat, and after being denied the first session because of overnight rain, West Indies reached a comforting 207 for 1.
India began well enough, with their fast bowlers - Sreesanth, fit again and making a reappearance to the Test eleven, and the ever improving Munaf Patel - putting the ball in the right areas often enough to give it a chance to swing or seam on a pitch that afforded much-needed bounce.
What would have been especially pleasing to Bennett King, the West Indies coach, was Gayle's decision to put caution before all else. Gayle left the ball alone with the assurance of a traditional Test opener, and West Indies had managed just 11 runs from seven probing overs. The ball had moved late, after pitching on a length not quite full enough to drive, especially for Patel, and to the credit of West Indies' openers they did not chase the ball.
Suddenly, just as the dark clouds gathered over the bay, Gayle straddled the crease and, with typically unapologetic power, rammed a Sreesanth delivery into the stands over long-on. The shot took Gayle to 4000 Test runs and also confirmed the belief that he could clear the ropes in this ground without being completely to the pitch of the ball.
A short stoppage in play for a passing shower only helped West Indies' cause. Rahul Dravid brought his spinners on, and though Anil Kumble was bang on target, and tough to get away for runs, Harbhajan Singh was very much to the liking of the long-limbed Gayle. With nimble footwork not being essential to success - other than on the dancefloors in Bassaterre - Gayle was able to take the attack to Harbhajan like an axe-murderer to a platinum blonde in a bad horror film.
Five sixes and five fours later, Gayle had yet another half-century, and the ballboys at long-on and long-off, tired arms. Ganga, for his part, had stuck to his task, surviving the new ball despite some scares where the ball deviated enough to beat the bat and strike the pad or body and bounced away.
Suddenly, though, the Indians were in a bit of disarray as the bowlers could not go past the bat in a threatening manner and the opening partnership bounded past the century mark. It was only on 143, of which Gayle made 83, that he shouldered arms to a Patel delivery from round the stumps that took off stump and gave India some respite.
But if they harboured any hopes of one wicket leading to another, they were misplaced. Ramnaresh Sarwan, seemingly hell-bent on taking the attack to the opposition, batted positively, always on the front foot trying to force the ball away. India's cause was not helped by Brian Jerling, the South African umpire standing in his first Test, refusing to entertain even the most earnest appeal from Kumble. Perhaps Jerling, like Ganga, was looking for the elaborate turn that simply was not there, but he denied more than one close shout that might otherwise have been given, and drove Kumble to distraction.
At the end of the day, though, Ganga, who has come under some fire for his recent performances, was still at the crease, reposing the faith his captain had placed in him. Ganga was unbeaten on 64 from as many as 187 balls, Sarwan had 44 to his name and West Indies would be utterly pleased with their efforts. With rain perpetually around the corner and the pitch playing so true, it already seems asking too much to expect a result from this game unless West Indies put 600 on the board by the end of the second day, and India collapse. It could happen, but a sensible man would not bet on it.
Chris Gayle b Patel 83 (143 for 1)
Shouldered arms to one from round the stumps that came in with the angle
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