Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years
ZIM v IND (1)
WI v NZ (1)
RL Cup (1)
Women's Hundred (2)
Asia Cup QLF (1)
Men's Hundred (2)
ENG v SA (1)
At Kingston, Jamaica, June 20-23, 2011. India won by 63 runs. Toss: India. Test debuts: V. Kohli, P. Kumar, A. Mukund.
India's response to potential trouble in each innings proved the difference in a low- scoring match on a pitch offering pace and bounce. Shortly after lunch on the first day, with Dhoni a third high-profile victim for Bishoo's leg-spin, they were floundering at 85 for six. But Raina and Harbhajan Singh counter-attacked boldly, sharing 25 fours and a six, to add 146 off 28 overs. Second time round, India were guided to a match-winning total by the calmness of Dravid, whose 32nd Test century was the basis of only their fifth win in 43 matches in the Caribbean. One way or another, they had kept West Indies in their place.
The result was reward for courageous selection: Abhinav Mukund, Virat Kohli and Praveen Kumar became the first trio of Indian Test debutants in the same match since December 2001, when Sanjay Bangar, Iqbal Siddiqui and Tinu Yohannan were all picked against England at Mohali. But without the first-day aggression of Raina and Harbhajan, India might have slipped to an embarrassing defeat. Bishoo bore the brunt of their assault, having removed Laxman (with his first delivery), Dravid and Dhoni in his first 20 balls. But his next 22 cost 33 and, by the time Bishoo himself ended Harbhajan's 74-ball frolic with a spectacular flying catch at deep midwicket, the damage was done.
Edwards, in his first Test since undergoing surgery on a slipped disc 18 months earlier, claimed three of the last four wickets, which fell for 15 runs, but West Indies then stumbled against a varied attack, conceding a significant lead of 73. Free of the injuries that had been the bane of his young career, Barath compiled 64, but his was the only score above 27 as Kumar's swing and Sharma's aggression undermined the top order. Kumar had three for 38 from 18 overs when he was removed from the attack for running down the pitch a third time but, with West Indies already 135 for five, the spinners did the rest.
India's second innings - and arguably the match - turned on a moment of luck for Dravid, who was badly missed by Sammy at second slip off Rampaul when he had only six. Not one to spurn his good fortune, Dravid buttressed the innings with the unswerving application that had become his hallmark in 15 years as India's frequent saviour. As partners came and went, none managed more than Mishra's 28 in a handy ninth-wicket stand of 56. Dravid moved past Sunil Gavaskar's 1,404 runs to become the leading overseas scorer in Tests in the Caribbean, and was last out, to his 274th ball, as he miscued an attempt to repeat an earlier rare six.
On a surface that remained in relatively good order, West Indies' target of 326 was not impossible. Barath and Simmons shared three sixes in an assertive opening partnership of 62 off 11 overs but, once Barath was smartly taken at third slip, the top order again faltered against Kumar and Sharma. Kumar made the decisive strikes early on the third morning, bowling Bravo round his legs and having Chanderpaul caught at cover in successive overs. Sammy clouted Harbhajan for three sixes in a row, but then drove Mishra tamely into cover's lap. The last two wickets added 74, but by then the outcome was not in doubt.
The match had an unpleasant aftertaste. The Indians were openly distrustful of umpire Harper's decisions, eventually prompting his withdrawal from the final Test, which had been scheduled to be his last. Dhoni told the post-match media conference that "if the correct decisions were made, the game would have finished much earlier, and we would be in the hotel by now". Harper claimed the Indian captain badgered him on the field, saying: "We've had issues with you before, Daryl."
According to Indian newspapers, senior players privately questioned as many as nine of Harper's verdicts, and were also annoyed about his decision to bar Kumar from bowling. Harper said he chose to retire prematurely because of the Indians' pressure on him. He left with sharp criticism not only of the Indians ("I should never have applied the laws of cricket to Indian players") but also of what he termed the ICC's failure to take action against Dhoni, and its lack of support for him.
Man of the Match: R. Dravid.