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When the best is not good enough

cricket Updated: Jul 04, 2011 01:51 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
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In the end, it was a pity that one of the finest overseas spells by an India fast bowler did not culminate in the team's maiden victory at the home of West Indies cricket.

Over after over, Ishant Sharma kept steaming in, as it appeared he could take a wicket with almost every delivery despite the helpful Kensington Oval pitch having slowed down a tad.

The 22-year-old finished with his first-ever match haul of 10 wickets (10-108) after taking a career-best of six in the first innings to give Indiahttp://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/040711/04_07_11_pg18a.jpg a psychological advantage of an 11-run lead. The tall paceman consistently clocked around 140 kmph, swung the ball and extracted movement off the pitch to keep the batsmen guessing, showing how well he had bounced back after going through a low for several months.

Well timed

Dhoni set the West Indies a challenging target of 281 in the morning, to get in just over 80 overs, including a minimum of 68, but the other bowlers were unable to dominate. After just over six hours of play was lost to rain, the final break coming after tea, both teams walked away satisfied.

Ishant removed both openers Adrian Barath (27) and the struggling Lendl Simmons (14) but the home team found another saviour, this time in the young left-hander Darren Bravo, who has been weighed down by comparisons with his illustrious relative Brian Lara.

Bravo top-scored with 73, and hung in there for close to three hours. He added a slow but vital 54-run fourth wicket partnership with Shivnarine Chanderpaul after the innings was reduced to 55-3. A dubious leg before verdict by umpire Ian Gould did in Chanderpaul, and when Ishant removed Marlon Samuels (9) cheaply, a victory seemed possible.

Late resistance

However, Carlton Baugh (46 n.o.) came and played an attacking innings wicketkeepers are renowned for, to shake up India's confidence after he was dropped on zero by Dhoni, nicking Harbhajan Singh's straighter delivery.

In the end, Ishant removed Bravo and skipper Darren Sammy (0) off successive overs, only for fading light to force the teams off the pitch.

India’s wait to win at a venue where they have lost seven out of eight matches continues, but this is the closest they have come to forcing a win and erase the nightmare of 1997 when they were skittled out chasing 121 in the fourth innings.