Indian cricket team, when they were leaving for West Indies, were repeatedly tipped as our best chance in two of three decades of winning a test series in Caribbean. They started in bright note by winning the first ODI at Trinidad but failed to continue the momentum. And eventually, lost the ODI series in quite a convincing manner...
Now its onto test cricket, and honestly, Indian team failed to make any mark in first two days of this first test at Antigua. They were bowled out for just 241 and then, gave away a lead of 130 runs to the West Indians ( See the West Indian score card), bowled out just before the Lunch of Day 3.
OKK... 130 runs. Is that too much of a lead, or our batsmen will be able to negotiate it. This was the question when I continued to fix my eyes on television set, as the sunday night went into Monday early monring. Sehwag was the one I was banking on. I knew that if he can stay at the wicket for the rest of day's play, Indian team will be in lot better shape than it was at that moment.
Sehwag went into his usual manner, square cutting Fidel Edwads for a six at third man boundary, which didn't pleased the short but slippery West Indian new ball bowler. Fidel started to work on a plan - bowling at the body of Sehwag with a short leg and a leg slip, and to tell you frankly, Sehwag nearly gave away an easy catch to them.... but no. Another twist came - Fidel Edwads pulled up a hamstring and was forced to leave the field immidiatly. Result - Sehwag happy and West Indians shaky.
Sehwag started to enjoy rest of the West Indian bowlers, along with Wasim Jaffer, who looked to be a perfect opener - leaving the ball out side off stump, and not at all bothering about making runs. As the day went on, Sehwag started to become over confident and ultimately, lost his wicket to Corey Collymore in the exact manner that he was out in the first innings. In came VVS Laxman at no. 3.
Many people believe that Dravid should have been at no.3 but frankly, I don't. West Indies were a bowler short, and India win an opening partnership of 72 runs. Things were Ideal for Laxman and he started to play his shots very soon. I am sure Indian think tank had a plan for Dave Mohammed, the left arm leg spinner and Laxman went on to hit him out of the attack. After few typical Laxman shots, he tried to hit over the mid on area and was easily caught. Result - India 147 for 2 with a lead of just 13 runs.
In came Rahul Dravid. If you remember, Dravid made 49 off 173 balls in the first innings of this1st test at Antigua and he looked in absolutely the same mood on Day 3 as well. Dravid left everything that was out of his off stump and BLOCKED everything that was on stump. only those ones which West Indian bowlers bowled on the leg side which Dravid happily flicked for ones and twos. He hit no four in his 21 off 75 balls.
As all the above happened, Wasim Jaffer went on his usual business and ultimately completed his second century in test cricket. Wasim doesn't play too many shots, as he believes in leaving the good balls all alone, but whenever he drives of pulls the ball, he really looks elegant. A perfect test match opener he is..
Note - Wasim Jaffer's four highest scores are - 113*(in this match at Antigua), 100 at Nagpur, 86 at Antigua and 81 at Nagpur again. Isn't this amazing that after making his debut in 2000, Jaffer has played only 10 test matches so far, and two of his three best test innings are at Antigua only. And two ground seeing his all four best innings... !!
Finally, Indian are 85 runs ahead with 8 wickets in hand. The pitch looks getting better for batting but having said that, its never easy to bat in the fourth innings. Lets see what Day 4 for this Antigua test has in store for us. I'll see you in the morning as soon as the day 4 finishes, till then, here's Indian 2nd innings score card.
If you didn't watched this 4th Day's play between India and West Indies at Antigua cricket ground, I am sorry to tell you that no matter how good a writer is... you won't be able to feel what actually happened today.
Its 0338hrs here in India and I am so thrilled to tell you about today's' play that I am not really understanding where to start.. OK.. lets start from the beginning -
Everyone was saying that India, who had a lead of 85 runs with 8 wickets remaining, should preserve wickets for the first hour and then start going for some shots. Probably thats what West Indian team managment also thought and that's why, they started the bowling with Dave Mohammed and Dwayne Bravo. New ball was due for West Indies in 14 overs and they wanted to get them over as soon as possible when Indian overnight batsmen - Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer tried to get their eye in..
That's where Indians out smarted West Indies - They went for their shots from the very first over and looked to take quick singles. It was very uncharacteristic start from probably the two slowest scorers in Indian team and as a result - India made 33 runs in the first half hour on Day 4. They picked the slowest fielders like Ian Bradshaw and Sarwan and converted ones into two's and two's into three's very nicely..
Then came the new ball and Indian batting style changed completely. Having scored 65 runs in first hour, India scored just 34 runs in next one hour, trying to defend nearly everything from Bradshaw and Corey Collymore but more importantly, didn't lose any wicket. So at Lunch, India were 170 runs ahead with all overnight 8 wickets standing..
Post lunch session was dullest of them all. We all read about Sunil Gawaskar as how slow scorer he was, but I am sure Rahul Dravid is not far behind. Wasim Jaffer was playing some good shots but whenever Dravid got to the striking end, that over didn't yielded anymore run. Rahul Dravid had made 49 off 173 balls in the first innings and in this second Indian Innings, he made 62 off 177 balls...!!
Jaffer was going at his typical rate, driving the ball at the best of timings and he completed his double century quite easily but to tell you the fact, things started to look bad for India. It seemed like they are loosing all the advantage the had at the start of fourth day's play as not many runs were being made and overs were going by. Even when Yuvraj came to the wicket and was later joined in by Mohammad Kaif, run rate didn't improve. India hardly reached a lead of 300 runs with about 20 overs remaining for the day. And then Yuvraj got out and things changed..
Arrival of Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the last hope that Indian team had to make some quick runs and get a substantial lead over West Indies, but Dhoni proved to be more than that. Dhoni took one single, two two's, hit four fours and six sixes..5 of them were off Dave Mohammed, three off the last over of the Innings and the "Drama" started. Dhoni wanted fourth six of that Dave Mohammed over and was caught on the boundary by Darren Ganga. Umpires took too long to decide whether Dhoni was cleanly caught or not and that made Brain Lara mad.
But all in all, that Dhoni Explosion meant that Indians were back in a position to declare the Innings and set a target of 392 off 95 overs for West Indies to chase. 5 overs were bowled towards the end in which West Indies made 13 runs..
Here's Indian second Innings scorecard but if you want a detailed view on that Incident involving Dhoni's six or Ganga's catch or Umpire's confusion of even Lara's animation, try this effort of mine.
I am sure you know the result of this test match but if you are still looking for an interesting read about what actually happened on the last day of test cricket on Antigua cricket ground, here's a try of mine.