Virat Kohli, R Ashwin and now Mohammed Shami, this Test is fast turning out to be generous towards players who have 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 looked like almost an eternity, Shami came back to produce a fiery spell of bowling comprising movement and extra bounce that reduced West Indies to 92/5 from 68/2 in the matter of 17 overs. India might have used almost two days to pile an imposing score but Shami’s burst now gives them all the time in the world to plot a quick downfall of West Indies.
For live scoreboard: West Indies vs India 1st Test Day 3 Scoreboard
Just when it looked that West Indies might have managed to play out the first session without much damage, Shami removed Darren Bravo an over before lunch. In terms of impact Bravo was a huge wicket. One of the most experienced players in this team, Bravo is one of those who have been regularly part of the squads for both Tests and T20s and is generally good with deliveries outside the off-stump. Shami though was equally persistent outside off, bowling quick and pitching the ball just up to create that hesitation.
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. That dismissal brought back India into the game after a nearly 18-over vigil by Devendra Bishoo gave new impetus to the fading strategy of sending nightwatchmen. This being a pre-proclaimed Test of patience though, India were game for it.
Bishoo was keen on giving back the visitors 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 Brathwaite ensured it was him who faced the most deliveries. Brathwaite 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.
Once Bishoo fell to the leg-spin of Amit Mishra, West Indies’s natural penchant to play shots was exposed. Kohli started the day with Ishant Sharma and Shami but it was Shami who looked most probing with deliveries that moved just enough after pitching to create that doubt in the batsmen. Bravo anyway looked most restless with all the close-in fielders.
Samuels however was the big catch. The only batsman who can consistently be a thorn in the flesh for India, Samuels looked frustrated after being denied easy runs. Shami too 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 Jermaine 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.