In a rare concentration lapse, an aberration in a near flawless day for India, KL Rahul played Roston Chase across the line, in an attempt to break free over the ring field set by Jason Holder. With his score at 46, it would have added a third dimension to his thus far boom or bust Test career, filled with single digit scores and two hundreds. Instead, the chance was put down, and Rahul finds himself at 75*, primed for a third hundred in overseas conditions, as India ended the day at 126 for 1, looking set for a big first innings lead, having dismissed the West Indians for 196.
The toss was a tale in contrasts, as Jason Holder chose to bat, having brought in a quicker replacement for Carlos Brathwaite in Miguel Cummins. Having brought in young Alzarri Joseph into the squad following the defeat at Antigua, it is a surprise that the selectors did not choose to throw the kitchen sink at India, having gone 0-1 down. On a wicket Kohli described as “damp, with spikes going in fully”, and with a history of favoring pace, the only possible explanation for Holder’s decision could lie in West Indies not wanting to bat fourth on this pitch.
India’s bowling attack put up yet another performance that merited such caution, with Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami striking early to have them tottering at 7 for 3. Kraigg Brathwaite perished early this time, followed immediately by Darren Bravo, and Rajendra Chandrika is possibly living on borrowed time now.
What followed was a blistering counterattack from Jermaine Blackwood and Marlon Samuels, both looking to home conditions to get them out of their extended lean patches in this format. Blackwood, coming off a pair at Antigua, rolled back the clock, with scorching drives in front of the wicket, punctuated by pulls and swipes that went all the way. No bowler was spared, not even the in-form Ravichandran Ashwin, and by the time Samuels joined the party, having crawled to 1 off 40, it felt like the Indian bowling was being tested for the first time this series.
But, as seems to be West Indies’ wont these days in Tests, the phase did not last long enough, as Ashwin had the rub off the green, getting Blackwood out with one that seemed to spin way too much to hit the stumps. Yet again, there was no reprieve at hand, with India sticking to their “no DRS”. It was an innings to remember for the crowd and an important one for Blackwood, touted for a while now as one of the future mainstays of this batting order.
Samuels fell to one that was pushed with extra top spin from Ashwin, and the misjudgment cut short a promising innings at just 37, one in which he had waited 30 balls to get off the mark, before launching into a calculated assault. What followed was a familiar procession, with Ashwin helping himself to yet another 5 wicket haul, an incredible 18th in 34 Tests. Miguel Cummins and Shannon Gabriel had some fun late in the innings, putting on an entertaining 38 runs together, before it all folded up for 196 in 52.3 overs.
If India’s bowlers had exploited the early morning conditions, Dhawan and Rahul started off patiently against an attack that looked short of ideas, never looking like they would take a wicket. They feasted off half volleys and ones that did very little, having landed on the fifth stump line, compiling an opening partnership of 87, replete with 14 hits to the fence. In the end, West Indies did not create enough chances, and when one came, put it down. 70 runs behind and with the bulk of their batting to come, India look set to pile on the agony in Kingston on Day 2.