Tourists lead by 240 going into final day
By Sean Devers
in Barbados in
association with Digicel,
Carib Beer & Queensway
Half-centuries from VVS Laxman (72*) and Raul Dravid (55) kept India on track for a historic victory at Kensington Oval at the end of another rain affected day of Test cricket on a track with pace and bounce.
When the penultimate day of the second Test ended yesterday the Indians were 229-3, enjoying a lead of 240 runs and an intriguing final day is anticipated.
With only two series wins to show in the West Indies since their first tour here in 1953, India will hope for no rain today and good work from their bowlers to complete their first ever win in Barbados to take the three match series ahead of the Dominica Test from Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Laxman, who faced 171 balls and batted for 228 minutes in his undefeated 72 with six boundaries, added 65 for the third wicket with the 38-year-old Dravid whose 60th Test fifty came from 171 balls, 221 minutes with three fours, to keep India in the hunt for their first ever consecutive wins on Caribbean soil.
The pair of Indian’s oldest players had joined forces in murky conditions after Fidel Edwards (2-58), had Abhinav Mukund caught behind for 48 at 89-2 in the first session which was delayed by 80 minutes due to heavy morning rain.
After the lively Edwards removed Dravid to a catch at first slip at 154-3 in the final session, Laxman reached his 50th half-century and along with 22-year-old rookie Virat Kohli, carried their team to 223 when Laxman was dropped off his own bowling on 69 by Sammy, who put down Dravid who made 112, when he was on six in Jamaica.
When stumps were drawn Kohli was with Laxman on 26 and their unfinished partnership worth 75 runs. Sammy in particular will hope that Laxman does not get a three-figure score today.
Earlier, India resumed on 23 without loss in their second innings after huge chunks of the match were lost to rain on the second and third days and again yesterday.
Murali Vijay took 21 balls to score three before being caught behind at 26-1 off Ravi Rampaul who has now dismissed him four times in the series.
Just before Lunch the home side thought they had Dravid caught at square leg by a diving Adrian Barath for nine. However, the low offering; as Dravid flicked Skipper Darren Sammy, seemed to have just touched the ground before it settled in the hands of Barath who claimed the catch.
After a hold up of seven minutes for the third Umpire to check the replay on the request of the on-field Umpires, a ‘not out’ verdict was given and Dravid, Man-of-the-Match in Jamaica for his century, lived to fight on.
The left-handed Mukund, in only his second Test, was struck on his helmet by a nasty bouncer from the impressive Rampaul but by Lunch had reached 27. Dravid was with him on 18 and India on 62-1 enjoying a lead of 73.
But with more rain threatening, the adverse weather was playing a major role in keeping the series alive.
Play was delayed by 10 minutes after Lunch due to a drizzle but resumed in sunny conditions which very quickly became overcast.
Rampaul beat Dravid with a ‘peach of a delivery’ which cut back from off stump and went right through the right-hander’s probing bat.
At 89-2, Mukund fended a quick bouncer aimed at his neck and gloved the catch to Carlton Baugh. Mukund hit six fours in 48 from 81 balls and 153 minutes.
VVS Laxman joined Dravid and the team’s two most experienced batsmen had to contend with some hostile short-pitched bowling from Edwards who had Laxman (like a Boxer evading a vicious straight right in the ring) rocking his head out of the way of a fast bouncer that a leaping Baugh took head high.
While Edwards attacked at one end, Sammy bowled ‘line and length’ to keep things tight at the other and the Indians were not allowed to put their foot on the gas.
Rampaul and Edwards were rotated from the Northern end while Bishoo replaced Sammy from the South and with dark clouds hovering over the Kensington Oval sward.
India pushed their lead to 143-2 by Tea as Dravid and Laxman batted diligently on the liveliest pitch of the Digicel home series so far.
Dravid stepped back and cut Sammy majestically behind point for four to move closer to his 60th Test fifty and by the break was undefeated on 48 with Laxman on 26 and the lead 154.
After Tea Dravid cut loosely at a wide ball from Edwards and was taken at first slip by Ramnaresh Sarwan before Kohli in only his second Test, joined the well set Laxman to see their team to the close.
Five hours and 27 minutes have been lost to rain so far in this contest and more rain was forecast for last night.
India are expected to declare today and a West Indies win is as unlikely.
Scores: India 201 and 229 for 3 (Laxman 72*, Dravid 55) lead West Indies 190 by 240 runs.
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