Dravid rallies India again
Either side of fierce winds and a brief tropical shower, it rained wickets at Sabina Park as India took charge of the final Test of the series. Having made just 200 on the opening day, they bowled West Indies out for a paltry 103 soon after lunch, and though Jerome Taylor snaffled up both openers in next to no time, the colossal figure of Rahul Dravid - who passed 9000 Test runs along the way - ensured that India finished the day with a healthy lead of 225 runs.
India had needed the bowlers to produce something special to keep their hopes alive in this decisive Test, and S Sreesanth duly delivered the wickets of Chris Gayle and Brian Lara. Anil Kumble and Munaf Patel also chipped in, before Harbhajan Singh cut a swathe through the lower order. Significant advantage gained, but it was soon in danger of being squandered. However, in a time of strife, there can be no better batsman to turn to than the man who is so much more than the prosaic Wall that he's made out to be.
Dravid, whose first-innings 81 could yet be the defining act of this match, was once again immense, exhibiting tremendous powers of concentration and impeccable shot selection on a pitch where shot-making was never easy. In a Test match where 26 wickets have fallen in two days, he has truly been a class apart. Gorgeous drives down the ground and precise cuts and pulls interspersed periods of stout defence, as the likes of Taylor and Corey Collymore strained every sinew to haul their side back into contention.
They had been pushed into a hole during a disastrous morning session. Sreesanth had Gayle play down the wrong line to the fourth ball of the innings, and Lara then survived a confident shout as West Indies started nervously. A crisp pull for four off Sreesanth got Lara off the mark, and he followed it up with a languid cover-drive and a deft nudge down to fine leg for further boundaries. Though both Sreesanth and Patel generated decent pace, Lara's ominously confident start forced Dravid to call for Kumble as early as the 10th over. He started poorly, with Lara thumping a full-toss down the ground and then squeezing an off-drive past the bowler.
At that stage, West Indies were in the ascendant, but when Sreesanth came up with a vicious lifter to see off Lara, you could sense the momentum swing. Wasim Jaffer spilled a straightforward chance at third slip off Marlon Samuels - Sreesanth's glare said it all - but he didn't stick around to capitalise, beaten by a ripper from Kumble.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul started by putting away a full toss, and with Daren Ganga picking off any ball angled at his legs, West Indies entertained visions of heading into lunch without further losses. But Patel's persistent off-stump line worked on Chanderpaul's patience, and with the plates out for lunch, Harbhajan came on to deliver a potentially telling blow, ending Ganga's spirited resistance at 40.
What followed was farcical. Where India had been occasionally careless with the bat yesterday, West Indies were staggeringly inept, collapsing in a heap even before the mid-day meal was partially digested. Harbhajan finished with flattering figures of 5 for 13 from just 4.3 overs as the crowd were stunned into silence by the procession to the pavilion.
Dwayne Bravo started the post-lunch slide, lasting a mere four balls, and when Ramnaresh Sarwan - batting so low after injuring his knee yesterday - holed out to midwicket, a three-figure total appeared unlikely. Denesh Ramdin and Taylor just about got them there, but no batsmen showed any inclination to tackle Harbhajan, who won't pick up an easier five-for in his career.
Taylor's new-ball burst roused his team-mates and the crowd, but Indian nerves were calmed by the old stagers, Laxman and Dravid. In the context of this game, their 43-run association was huge, and by the time Laxman fell soon after tea, Dravid appeared set fair for another defining innings.
And so it proved, despite failures from both Yuvraj Singh - who looked in prime form before a reckless slash - and Mohammad Kaif. At 76 for 5, West Indies might have scented an opening, but after a hesitant start full of swishes and heaves, Mahendra Singh Dhoni knuckled down to support the main man.
Dravid suddenly upped the ante with some stunning shots off Collins and Taylor, and with Dhoni also chipping in with the odd crash and wallop, the lead went beyond 200. Dhoni didn't quite make it to stumps, but his captain did.
Chris Gayle b Sreesanth 0 (0 for 1)
Played down the wrong line to one that shaped back, off stump knocked out
Brian Lara c Jaffer b Sreesanth 26 (42 for 2)
Lifted awkwardly, fended to third slip
Marlon Samuels stumped Dhoni b Kumble 2 (53 for 3)
Big stride forward, beaten by sharp turn, deft stumping confirmed by third umpire
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Dhoni b Patel 10 (72 for 4)
Statuesque footwork and a poke outside off stump, regulation catch
Daren Ganga lbw Harbhajan 40 (80 for 5)
Struck on the back leg by one that spun in sharply
Dwayne Bravo c Yuvraj b Harbhajan 0 (81 for 6)
Inside edge onto pad, taken at short leg
Ramnaresh Sarwan c Kaif b Harbhajan 7 (88 for 7)
Attempt to clear midwicket finds the fielder off the leading edge
Denesh Ramdin c Yuvraj b Harbhajan 10 (99 for 8)
Undone by extra bounce, glove on to pad. Easy catch
Jerome Taylor run out (Sehwag) 6 (103 for 9)
Mistimed shot to mid-on and he kept on running, with no response from Collins
Pedro Collins c Sehwag b Harbhajan 0 (103 all out)
Casual hoick to long-on. Easily held
Wasim Jaffer c sub (Morton) b Taylor 1 (1 for 1)
On off stump and moving away, flashed hard and brilliantly taken to the right of third slip
Virender Sehwag lbw Taylor 4 (6 for 2)
Angled in, and kept a touch low, plumb in front
VVS Laxman c Lara b Collymore 16 (49 for 3)
Moved away a touch, edged and taken low to the right at second slip
Yuvraj Singh c Lara b Collymore 13 (63 for 4)
Flashed hard away from the body, sharp sharp well taken at second slip
M Kaif b Collins 6 (76 for 5)
Darted back a touch, dragged onto the stumps
Mahendra Singh Dhoni b Taylor 19 (122 for 6)
Nipped back sharply and kept low, crashed into middle stump
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo