WI ride on two century stands to build up good platform

Mumbai: West Indies put up a much-improved batting display and rode on two century partnerships to lay the foundation for a mammoth first innings total in the third and final cricket Test against India here in the western Indian city Tuesday.

Down 0-2 in the three-match series after having lost the first two matches in Delhi and Kolkata, the visitors took full advantage of captain Darren Sammy`s luck with the toss and made optimum use of the good batting conditions to rake up a healthy-looking 267 for two at close on the opening day.

At stumps, Kirk Edwards (65 in 117 balls) and Darren Bravo (57 in 98 balls) were at the crease. Opting to bat, the West Indies were earlier provided an excellent start by openers Adrian Barath (62 in 148 balls) and Kraigg Brathwaite (68 in 184 balls). Edwards, who has struck 10 fours in his 146-minute unbeaten effort, and Bravo, who has seven hits to the fence to his credit in his 128-minute essay, have put on 117 runs in 192 balls for the unconquered third wicket stand.

The duo consolidated on the fine opening partnership of 137 runs provided by Barath, who struck his second successive half century, and Brathwaite. For the home team, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up both the West Indian wickets in a span of 20 balls to reduce the tourists to 150 for two at one stage.

However, some forthright batting by Edwards and Bravo, fresh from his brilliant 136 in the second innings at Kolkata, ensured that the visitors ended the day without any further damage. The visitors were earlier dealt a big blow by the non-availability of experienced middle-order batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who did not recover sufficiently from his calf muscle injury picked up in Kolkata.

On the contrary, India went into the match by making the surprise move of leaving out Umesh Yadav, the highest wicket taker in the second Test, to give a chance to Varun Aaron to make his debut. Aaron and fellow-pacer Ishant Sharma, however, failed to pick up a wicket in the first two sessions of the day, though both bowled impressively at times on the easy-paced Wankhede Stadium wicket.

Left-arm Pragyan Ojha, with 13 wickets to his name from the first two Tests, was able to extract slow turn in the morning and slightly sharper later in the day but he too failed to claim any wicket in the day. Ojha, however, was unlucky not to have dismissed Bravo on 33 and in the team score of 230 for two when the left-hander edged a defensive prod to the left of lone slip fielder Rahul Dravid, who could not hold on to the ball despite getting both hands to it.

India summoned the second new ball after 84.3 overs when the West Indies score was five short of 250. The visitors, who were 80 for no loss and 161 for two at the end of the first two sessions respectively, were in full control in the last session with Edwards, who was nearly bowled by Ashwin in the last over before tea, and Bravo looking very good.

Earlier, Ashwin picked up two wickets in 20 balls in the middle session to bring India back into the game after the West Indies had made a solid beginning. The lanky spinner from Chennai, who made his debut in Delhi, sent back openers Barath, who struck eight fours in 148 balls, and Brathwaite (8 fours in 184 balls) in the last half hour to tea after duo had put on 137 runs for the first wicket.

In the opening session, the visitors made a confident start and went into lunch with 80 on board without losing any wicket. The series already out of their grasp, Barath and Brathwaite decided to adopt patience over flamboyance on an easy-paced track. Post lunch, the Indian bowlers managed to keep a tight hold on the proceedings, which eventually resulted in breaking the defiant partnership between Barath and Brathwaite.

After allowing West Indies to rake up runs at a slightly more brisk pace in the morning session, Indian bowlers kept a tight leash in the first hour of the second session, conceding only 29 runs in 16 overs. Ashwin, unlucky to see Brathwaite escape a sharp catch to VVS Laxman at backward short-leg, finally broke the opening stand when he had Barath caught bat-pad by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Barath tried to defend the sharply spinning ball but it took his bat`s inside edge and ballooned after striking his thigh pad for Dhoni to run forward and easily claim the catch. Ashwin, who was bowling in tandem with Ojha, added the scalp of Brathwaite by foxing the batsman with another turning ball that took the inside edge and ballooned to Virat Kohli at short forward leg. Brathwaite, who escaped a half-chance on 32 and another one on 57- struck eighth fours in his 184-ball knock.

The twin strike by Ashwin put West Indies slightly on the back foot and they were lucky not to have lost Edwards in the final over when he played and missed a ball that sneaked in between his bat and pad and nearly hit the stumps. But post tea, Edwards and Bravo attacked the Indian bowlers, especially Ashwin, to ensure that the home team did not come on top.