North Sound: India’s supremacy remained unrivalled as they rode on Ravichandran Ashwin’s 7/83 to outplay the West Indies by an innings and 92 runs, their biggest win outside Asia, in a lopsided first cricket Test to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series here on Sunday. Ashwin produced an off-spin bowling masterclass and triggered a second-innings slide that saw the hosts collapse from 88/2 to 132/8 on the fourth and penultimate day.
A defiant ninth-wicket stand of 95, West Indies’ highest in the game, between Carlos Brathwaite (51 not out) and Devendra Bishoo (45) delayed the inevitable before Ashwin came back to seal the issue by bowling the hosts out for 231. This was also the Tamil Nadu spinner’s first five-wicket haul outside the Asian continent. India bowled out the West Indies for 243 in their first innings, having amassed 566 for eight declared after opting to bat. Forced to follow-on after conceding a massive lead of 323, the hosts failed to cope up with intense pressure created by Ashwin and Co on a pitch that offered assistance to slow bowlers.
At the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, the visitors shot out the hosts in three hours over the post lunch and tea session to finish their two innings at 243 and 231. After tea, Brathwaite reached his third Test fifty, but the rest of the innings folded in just over 40 minutes. Bishoo hit straight to midwicket off Ashwin in the 78th over, and three balls later bowled Shannon Gabriel (4) to wrap up the proceedings with a day to spare.
Post lunch, it was an extended session of play which proved enough for India to force a win. But first they had to break through the 67-run partnership between Rajendra Chandrika (31) and Marlon Samuels (50). The two batsmen began again in the same vein, trying to play for time, and in doing so, the latter crossed the 50-mark off 74 balls raising hopes of a fight back. But it was short-lived as Chandrika had a faint inside-edge off Ashwin in the 36th over, judged accurately by the umpire and caught on the third attempt by Wriddhiman Saha.
It started the slide for West Indies and the off-spinner barged into the opening he had found. In the very next over, he removed Jermaine Blackwood (0) for a second duck in the match, with skipper Virat Kohli holding a magnificent diving catch at midwicket to aid in the dismissal. Then came the best moment for Ashwin, as a beautiful delivery beat Samuels’ straight bat and knocked back his off-stump in the 42nd over. Thereafter a short partnership developed between Brathwaite and debutant Roston Chase (23) and they looked comfortable at the crease for the duration of their 47-run stand.
Brathwaite went on to score his 9th Test fifty off 156 deliveries, while the West Indies’ 100-mark came up in the 51st over. Indian skipper Virat Kohli then went on the offensive and played around with his fielding combinations, putting in as many as five close-in catching positions for his pacers. The trick worked as Yadav broke through, first dismissing Chase who was caught at midwicket with Kohli doing the necessary catching himself. Two overs later, the same aggressive fielding worked as Brathwaite was forced to fend off a short delivery instead of pulling it, and edged behind to keeper Wriddhiman Saha, who affected his fifth dismissal of the innings.
Ashwin could have had a wicket too, towards the end of the session as Shane Dowrich edged to Rahane at slip, but the ball was seen to have bounced on replay. Jason Holder was the other unbeaten batsman. Earlier, West Indies reached 90/3 at lunch after Brathwaite had defied the Indian bowlers along with Devendra Bishoo (12). The duo put on 38 for the second wicket but more importantly frustrated the visitors by batting out 17.5 overs.
Starting at their overnight score of 31/1, Bishoo looked to stay with his partner for as long as possible, and he was successful in achieving that goal. He frustrated the Indian bowlers for nearly 70 minutes, and in this interim, saw off Ishant, Yadav and Shami without much discomfort. Part of it had to with the fact that the Indian pacers were guilty of bowling too short, especially to the night watchman. Ishant as the leader of the attack was a disappointment in particular in this scenario as Kohli looked at him twice to bring about a dismissal.
Shami was the one who troubled Bishoo the most, but couldn’t induce an edge despite going past the bat on many occasions. At the other end, Brathwaite was happy to leave as many deliveries as possible, and he was obviously helped by the wide deliveries bowled at him by the Indian pacers. When the spin came on, he looked to attack Ashwin and didn’t allow the lead spinner to settle down at all, hitting him for boundaries in successive overs.
While only 29 runs had come in the first hour of play, the 50-mark for the West Indies had come up in the 24th over of the innings. Then the breakthrough finally came as Amit Mishra (1-18) was introduced into the attack, and Bishoo was stumped going for a sweep shot.
Darren Bravo (11) then came to the crease, and he looked solid there albeit only for a short while. Kohli changing around his bowlers too quickly perhaps helped him in this endeavour, particularly the pacers who all bowled short spells from the Sir Curtly Ambrose End. Ishant and Umesh were taken off after one and two over spells respectively, and then Shami came on to bowl.
It seemed as if Bravo would be able to take the West Indies to lunch without any further loss, but he played at a wide outswinging delivery that he didn t really need to, and ended up edging behind to keeper Saha. Marlon Samuels was the other unbeaten batsman at the crease then, heading into the lunch break, but he was yet to get off the mark.