Dravid ton puts India at 346

Kolkata: Rahul Dravid slammed a fluent 119 to put India in command before West Indies snapped up two quick wickets in the fag end of the day to recover marginally in the second cricket Test here on Monday.

Opting to bat, Dravid and VVS Laxman (73 batting) continued their love affair on their favourite Eden Gardens track as their 140-run partnership put India in a strong position of 346 for five at close on the opening day. On a day Sachin Tendulkar missed out again on the 100th international century when he was out on 38, Dravid took centrestage by notching up his 36th Test and his fifth in 2011.

The fourth wicket partnership was broken by part-timer Kraigg Brathwaite who took his maiden Test wicket in form of centurion Dravid who played one on to his stumps. Laxman was unbeaten on 73 from 116 balls with five fours as the day was called off early because of bad light with 2.3 overs remaining.

Dravid notched up his century by guiding a Kemar Roach delivery towards fine leg for a boundary. The second leading Test scorer behind Tendulkar completed the mark in 179 deliveries with nine boundaries and one six for his fifth century against the West Indies. But Dravid missed the 13,000 Test run mark by just 21 runs when he gifted five-Test match old part time offspinner Kraigg Brathwaite an easy wicket playing an inside edge to the stumps.

Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma was dismissed for a duck in a first ball dismissal. He may be lying low on 12 in the ICC rankings ladder, but Dravid once again showed why he is called one of the finest No 3 batsmen in an innings of great composure. Dravid came at a time when India were crusing in Twenty20 fashion with 66 in 12 overs.

On a batting beauty, Tendulkar looked fluent, milking the inexperienced West Indian bowlers at ease as he hit five boundaries in his 71-ball knock. The crowd also started filling up in the empty Eden Gardens with Tendulkar looking in fine touch for the landmark milestone. But it was West Indian legspinner Devendra Bishoo who once again claimed the prized scalp just when he and Dravid were looking to make it big in their 56-run partnership. Tendulkar could only manage to pull directly to Marlon Samuels at midwicket from a short Bishoo delivery in what appeared a very easy dismissal in the end in the last ball of the 52nd over.

Tendulkar was looking good in the second innning of the opening Test in Delhi but only to be dismissed leg before by the same West Indian leg-spinner. The senior batsman, who last scored a century in a World Cup match against South Africa eight months ago, has remained one shy of the 100th milestone from 12 Test and four ODI innings. Earlier Gambhir, cracked his 17th Test half-century but failed to make it big as he fell four overs after lunch.

It was another ordinary ball that yielded in a wicket when Edwards took the wicket after Gambhir drove straight to short cover where Barath took an easy catch. Gambhir made 65 from 103 balls with eight boundaries. Sehwag was hit on the back of the helmet early into his innings but he seemed unaffected blazing away to 38 from 33 balls with eight boundaries as he along with the lefthander Gambhir put on 66 for the opening wicket.

India did not panic after Sehwag`s freak dismissal as Gambhir and Dravid put on 83 runs for the second wicket before the left-hander was dismissed four overs after lunch. The match began in front of a measly crowd with less than 1,000 in attendance crowd in the grand 67,000 capacity stadium.

With Ravi Rampaul indisposed, skipper Darren Sammy took the new ball along with Fidel Edwards, a move that did not work out quite well on the slow strip. The diminutive pacer Edwards got a bit of bounce from the Eden strip but Sammy was unimpressive and looked ordinary.

The risk backfired for Sammy as Sehwag took the charge on the West Indies medium-pacer and gained in stature after being hit by a rising Fidel Edwards delivery in the third ball of the third over. With no respite for the West Indians, the first drinks break in the morning did the trick for the visitors. In what seemed a little lapse in concentration, Sehwag gave an easy catch at short midwicket to Adrian Barath to gift his wicket to Sammy in the first ball after the drinks break. West Indies introduced spin in the 19th over but part-time offspinner Marlon Samuels and leggie Devendra Bishoo could not make much of an impact on Dravid and Gambhir.