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Indians feast on, hosts left in agony

Sehwag, Dravid and Kaif piled up big tons that may help the team win the second Test.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2006 11:08 IST

It took them some time, but the Indians finally lived up to their reputation of being a strong batting side. Their performance was below par in the ODIs and it was no different in the first Test, until Wasim Jaffer's double century sparked a revival.

Virender Sehwag's 180 made sure the momentum was not lost, before Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif helped the team reach a total which made clear that here on, only one team could win the second Test.

There was no peril in the pitch, but it was getting slow, and batting later may not be easy, especially if the side concerned concedes a giant lead.

This West Indies attack looks pedestrian unless there is assistance from the surface. Not that they didn't explore that option which is clear from one look at the grass on the pitch - although the pace and bounce suited India, who were helped also by the home team's inability to reproduce the discipline they showed on the first day in Antigua.

Due partly to this and largely to their application, the Indian batsmen piled pressure on the West Indies and left the statisticians with a lot to do - as in finding out when they last notched up successive 500-plus totals and when three of them scored centuries in the same innings away from home.

Things were calmer on Sunday with Dravid and Kaif at work, but the output was significant. After an opening stand of 159 and a third-wicket partnership of 139, these two put together 179 for the fifth wicket, which could turn out to be crucial in the sense that it just might give India the luxury of not batting again.

Dravid was five short of his 23rd century at stumps on Day I and completed it early in the second morning. Though a few others in the side may exude more bravado, there is no doubt who the pillar of strength in this Indian batting line-up is, and the skipper confirmed this for the umpteenth time as he dropped anchor and made the runs flow as well, constantly encouraging Kaif with word and deed.

He did spend a considerable amount of time at the crease in both the innings in the first Test without looking too comfort able. Here, he was in command.

Dravid was as elegant as any body while leaning into the drives through the off and characteristically charming playing off his pads. The beauty of this innings might go unnoticed after the brutality of the Sehwag onslaught, but its importance must not.

There is nothing eye-catching about the brand of cricket Kaif plays while he is not fielding and his first Test century was no different. He concentrated hard as he ran between the wickets and his century was as much a result of his determination as of his ability as a batsman. Each run he scored after Dravid's dismissal made the home team's job that much tougher.