India played themselves into a commanding position on the opening day of the second Test at Kingston in Jamaica. After winning the toss, West Indies skipper Jason Holder tried to be positive, and chose to play to his strengths, deciding to bat first on a green top. But, the move backfired, as, first the Indian pacers, and then Ravichandran Ashwin, had them down and out, cleaning them up for a paltry 196. India then responded in emphatic fashion, reaching 126 for the loss of Shikhar Dhawan’s wicket. Lokesh Rahul, who got the opportunity to open with Murali Vijay injured, grabbed in, remaining unbeaten on 75.
The day was dominated by India’s bowlers though, as West Indies’ batsmen failed to live up to the challenge put up in front of them by their skipper Holder. Kraigg Brathwaite, who is known for his stout defence, fell to his weakness against the short ball again. He was out fending at Ishant Sharma, caught by Cheteshwar Pujara in front of square. Ishant got Darren Bravo very next ball. Going round the wicket, he pitched one outside off stump, and Bravo, having not got his eye in, went to defend it, and edged behind the wickets.
2 for 4 soon became 3 for 7 as Mohammed Shami soon had Rajendra Chandrika nicking one to Rahul at gully. It was the worst start West Indies had had against India since 1983. Chandrika’s dismissal brought in Jermaine Blackwood, who himself had bagged a pair at Antigua. He was all set to be dropped, but the selectors kept him in and decided that Carlos Brathwaite will have to sit out. Blackwood responded with a counter-attacking half-century, a proof of his talent and natural ability that has been visible ever since he first walked in to the team.
Blackwood, in the company of Marlon Samuels, rescued the West Indies to an extent, the former with aggression, and the latter preferring to hold one end up. They dragged the score from 7 to 88 before Ashwin’s magic took over. He got a dangerous looking Blackwood lbw for a run-a-ball 62, with one that only just hit the leg stump. At the other end, Samuels took on the off-spinner, and hit him for a six down the ground. Ashwin responded by inviting him again, beating him in flight, and forcing Samuels to edge one to short leg.
The rest was pretty simple for Ashwin. He had Shane Dowrich caught behind while Holder and Devendra Bishoo had no answer to his flighted questions. Once Ashwin had done his job, Rahul took over. He was in no trouble at all against the West Indies bowlers, breezing his way to a half-century, and remaining unbeaten at close of play, having hit 10 fours. He had Cheteshwar Pujara for company, who slowly progressed to 18 from 57. The only moment of celebration for West Indies came when Dhawan gave his wicket away for 27, to give Chase his first Test scalp.
--By A Cricket Correspondent