First Test Match


Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: R. I. C. Holder, F. A. Rose; A. Kuruvilla.

Despite a pitch derided for its lack of pace and bounce, which tested the patience and skill of batsmen and bowlers, an intriguing last day was in prospect. Then rain, light but persistent, delayed play until shortly before tea, reduced the maximum number of overs to 58 and enabled India to reach a comfortable draw.

West Indies had created several chances to overwhelm India but each time allowed them to regroup. An exhilarating stand of 147 at a run a minute between Lara and Hooper appeared to have laid the foundation for a mammoth total. But Lara's dismissal for 83, to a low leg-side catch by the wicket-keeper, was a timely strike by the impressive debutant fast bowler Kuruvilla, just before the close. While Hooper advanced to his seventh Test hundred next morning and night-watchman Bishop survived an hour and a half, the last six went for 70. Hooper was Kuruvilla's third wicket, caught at mid-on after striking 17 fours with effortless elegance. Kumble, wicketless through 21 overs on the first day, secured the other five.

India used their seventh opening pair in seven Tests and soon lost Sidhu, playing his first Test since his petulant departure from England the previous May. But Laxman and Dravid had little difficulty adding 95 before Walsh summoned Franklyn Rose for his second spell, an hour into the third day. Observing the three-quarter length advocated by coach Malcolm Marshall and a probing off-stump line, he removed Laxman's leg-stump with his sixth ball. To the noisy jubilation of his home crowd, he also dismissed Dravid, Tendulkar and Azharuddin in six overs, and would have had Ganguly for nine had wicket-keeper Murray not muffed a leg-side catch. It was a critical error: Ganguly and the level-headed Mongia steered India away from the follow-on. Rose eventually had Ganguly caught at slip, but Mongia found another able ally in Joshi and the deficit was reduced to 81. Rose became the first West Indian fast bowler to claim six in a Test innings at the first attempt.

By the time they dismissed India on the fourth morning, West Indies needed their foot on the accelerator. With Lara inexplicably kept at No. 4, their advance was stalled by two brief rain-breaks and a period in which they scraped a mere 17 off 11 overs. When Lara did get in, the momentum changed completely. While Kumble's first ten overs cost eight, Lara took 12 off his next, hoisted him for a straight flat six and made 78 off 83 balls, dominating a stand of 122 in an hour and a half with Chanderpaul.

Hooper and Holder batted on in near-drakness that evening to give Walsh the option of an early declaration, but the weather rendered the tactic meaningless.

Man of the Match: F. A. Rose.

Close of play: First day, West Indies 300-4 (C. L. Hooper 87*, I. R. Bishop 3*); Second day, India 108-1 (V. V. S. Laxman 54*, R. Dravid 28*); Third day, India 308-7 (N. R. Mongia 74*, S. B. Joshi 23*); fourth day, West Indies 241-4 (C. L. Hooper 12*, R. I. C. Holder 21*).

© John Wisden & Co