Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and now Umesh Yadav, this Test has turned into one for the players who made their debuts against the West Indies. If the first two days were about Kohli and Ashwin bettering personal records, the third day belonged to the comeback man. Laid off for what seemed almost an eternity, Shami ran through the West Indies top order to take 4/66. Then Yadav, who made his debut with Ashwin against West Indies in 2011, took over with a responsible 4/41 to bowl out West Indies for 243 in the first innings.
Seeing the hosts on the back foot, Kohli promptly enforced the follow-on and pushed West Indies further down the abyss with the scalp of Kraigg Brathwaite, the highest scorer in the first innings. With nine wickets in hand, West Indies trail India by 302 runs. They have two days to bat themselves out of danger but India would fancy their chances of finishing the game by Sunday and get an extra day of rest.
West Indies started the day with the intention of not playing too many shots. Nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo was keen on grinding it out and irritate India after the kind of punishment he received while bowling. He lived perilously though, nearly edging the ball several times. But for a fairly long time in the early periods of the first session, Kraigg ensured it was him who faced the most deliveries. He however was extremely slow with his scoring rate, keen on letting the pacers have their way but preventing Ashwin from settling down. Among all the West Indies batsmen he looked the most assured about the kind of game he wants to play --- patient.
The message of patience being a virtue however didn’t filter down to the rest of the West Indies batting lineup as they started getting dismissed at regular intervals after a nearly 18-over vigil by Bishoo ended at the hands of Amit Mishra. Shami then produced a spell of bowling so effective that it reduced West Indies to 92/5 from 68/2 in a span of 17 overs. India might have used almost two days to pile an imposing score but Shami’s burst now leaves Kohli plenty of time to plot the fall of nine wickets.
It shouldn’t be much difficult though. Kraigg, one of the rare West Indies batsmen happy to bat out time, is already back in the hut. And the rest doesn’t inspire much confidence that this Test could spill over to Monday. There was a period in the morning session when it looked India could be stretched. Once Bishoo fell, West Indies’s natural penchant to play shots was exposed. And when Shami removed Darren Bravo an over before lunch, West Indies started losing the plot.
The one that got Bravo was just back of the length and had more just that extra bit of carry which surprised Bravo enough to get a top edge to Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps. Kohli started the day with Ishant Sharma and Shami but it was the latter who looked most probing with his varying length and deliveries that moved just enough after pitching to create doubt in the batsmen.
Bravo was an important wicket but Marlon Samuels was the big catch for India early into the second session. The only batsman who can consistently be a thorn in the flesh for India, Samuels looked frustrated after being denied runs. Shami was bowling the fifth stump line so well that it was only a matter of time before Samuels gave in. There was no footwork, no shift in balance as Samuels simply hung out his bat to give an easy edge to Saha and Shami his 50th Test wicket. The over turned even better when Shami removed Blackwood with a similar delivery but only with extra bounce. Blackwood clearly had no inkling about what he was facing as he simply presented his bat to give an easy catch to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips.
Kraigg and Roston Chase then tried to stage a fightback with a 47-run stand for the sixth wicket but once Chase was snapped up by Yadav, Kraigg couldn’t hold longer. For him the field was a little interesting. Keeping two in the slips, Kohli left big gaps in the covers for both Ashwin and Yadav bowling in tandem at Kraigg. He kept trying to reach the pitch of the ball to Ashwin but then a short one from Yadav held its line and got too big on him. Kraigg couldn’t drop his hands quickly enough and gloved the ball to Saha.
After a mediocre time behind the stumps, Shane Dowrich redeemed himself with a fifty but not for a single time did West Indies look good enough to prevent the follow-on. Yadav took out Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite in consecutive deliveries but Dowrich held on a little longer till last man Shannon Gabriel was mopped up by Mishra’s googly.