The game at Cuttack was more a test of character rather than a test of talent. It was a difficult track, more so after the featherbed that everyone enjoyed in Nagpur. For West Indies, it was once again Shivnarine Chanderpaul who brought the team within reach of India's total, before perishing in the 49th over.
For India, the young Dinesh Kaarthick was the saviour, and he really applied himself well to bail out his team after they were 90 for seven. His partnership with Ajit Agarkar was what salvaged India's chances, and after the 25th over of the first innings, it was evident that this was a 190-200 wicket. Both batted sensibly and did not get over-ambitious, and were successful in getting their team to a fighting total.
While I would not take anything away from Kaarthick and Agarkar, I feel that the West Indies let go of their grip after having the Indians on the mat. They were not able to capitalise on the good spell that Darren Powell bowled, and the casual, complacent approach was evident in the latter half of the Indian innings. Good sides don't let go when they are in an advantageous position, and this is something that has happened far too often in West Indian cricket.
The last 12 overs of the Indian innings is what cost the West Indies the game, and hopefully they would have learnt about the necessity of holding onto an advantage. The visitors were also at a disadvantage because they did not have the services of Brian Lara in this game. Apparently he has a minor niggle, but these are avoidable injuries, and once again highlight the folly of playing top-level cricket within hours of landing in a new country. Hopefully, he will be fit for the rest of the series to help the West Indies pull a couple back. Before this series, the West Indies had a serious upper hand when it came to games against India. The streak began in the West Indies and continued through the Kuala Lumpur tri-series as well as the Champions Trophy. India have restored some parity with these last two games, but it's important for Lara and his men to hang in there. There are times when they look a little uninterested, and it's a small run of play that can make the difference between winning and losing.
The Indians suffered another top order collapse, like the ones they suffered in South Africa, however, they were never allowed to recover on those occasions. The game at Chennai promises to be another batsman-friendly affair, and one-dayers there have been high scoring. It is always hot in Chennai, and I already feel sorry for the bowlers! I believe rain has marred a couple of encounters there recently, so the crowds there will really be looking forward to this one.