The young India spinners showed they have the patience and the ability to capitalise on small mistakes by batsmen but appeared to run out of ideas when confronted with the tight technique of Shivnarine Chanderpaul on Day 1 of the first Test against West Indies here on Sunday.
It finally took a smart stumping by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to send back opener Kraigg Brathwaite off the bowling of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and end his 108-run fourth-wicket partnership with Chanderpaul. Debutant off-spinner R Ashwin followed it up with the wicket of Marlon Samuels but Chanderpaul's unbeaten century helped West Indies close on 256 for five after electing to bat.
It was Chanderpaul's 24th Test hundred, and seventh against India.
As expected, there wasn't a great deal of turn on the first day and the slowness of the track allowed the batsmen time to adjust their strokes. India still got three wickets fairly early through their spinners, but then struggled.
Brathwaite refused to drive, forcing Ashwin to bowl at the stumps with a packed leg-side field that included, at times, a leg-slip, a short leg, a short mid-wicket and a deep mid-on. At the other end, Chanderpaul was scoring freely without using the sweep.
After Ashwin and Ojha had failed to break the partnership for nearly 15 overs, Dhoni turned, successively, to part-timers Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh as tea approached. He got no reward.
The pacers too looked unlikely to get a wicket. Ishant Sharma bowled well but was thwarted by the lack of pace and carry in the pitch. Debutant Umesh Yadav was unimpressive in the short spells in which he was used.
Finally, the breakthrough came courtesy Ojha's flight and Dhoni's quick hands. Playing his first Test after a year, the bowler finished with three wickets.
Ojha spent the English summer playing county cricket and then scalped nine wickets in Rest of India's win over Rajasthan in the Irani Cup tie at the start of this season. In the morning, Dhoni turned to him when he wanted to introduce spin after nine wicket-less overs with the new ball.
The move would have paid immediate dividend had Ojha not muffed the chance as Kieran Powell's uppish drive flew to his right. However, Ojha was not to be denied for long and in his second over he got one to turn into the left-handed Powell and caught him in front as he lunged forward.
No. 3 Kirk Edwards too looked in trouble against Ojha. He fell when he came down the track and was beaten in flight and by spin to offer a return catch. This time Ojha made no mistake.
When Ashwin got his maiden Test wicket right after lunch by bowling Darren Bravo who tried to cut him from the stumps, India were well and truly on top. A West Indies fightback, and two more wickets later, it was even-stevens.