NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA), July 21: India made a cautious start, overcoming a testing spell from the West Indies fast bowlers to reach 72 for one at lunch on day one of the first Test here today.
At the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Shikhar Dhawan (46*, 74 balls, 4 fours) and Cheteshwar Pujara (14* 63 balls) were at the crease, after Shannon Gabriel (1-18) bowled an encouraging spell for the hosts.
This was after skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat.
The Indian think-tank threw up some surprise by way of their team selection, leaving out left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and opting to go in with three pacers instead. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami joined Ishant Sharma in the pace department, while R Ashwin and Amit Mishra are the spin options.
The West Indies handed a debut to Roston Chase, picking seven full-time batsmen, and left out fast bowler Miguel Cummins.
Murali Vijay (7) and Dhawan started off with Gabriel and skipper Jason Holder (0-14) starting the proceedings for the hosts. The West Indies had come out with a clear ploy and made good use of the new ball on a fresh first morning pitch.
Holder was the first one to test Dhawan with a short ball, and soon it became clear what plans they had set for the left-handed opener.
Soon after, Gabriel worked up his pace and started bowling some testing deliveries to Dhawan. There were a couple lobs and edges, but luckily enough they didn’t go to any of the fielders. The difference in pace between the two bowlers allowed Dhawan to ease off against Holder.
Meanwhile, Vijay looked comfortable at the crease, leaving as many deliveries as possible.
The hosts kept up with the plan though, as Gabriel started hitting the deck hard and getting sharp bounce on the odd delivery. And it was surprisingly good bounce that got Vijay, as he looked to play at one outside the off stump, only for the ball to kiss his glove and loop up to second slip where Kraigg Brathwaite caught it at after a little fiddling.
Pujara then came out to bat at number three, and never looked in any discomfort. That was particularly because West Indies decided to bring on debutant Chase (0-30) to bowl in the 12th over. His gentle off-breaks didn’t pose much threat to the batsmen, and Pujara in particular to attack him. But he was given good cover to block off the drives and didn’t bleed too many runs.
The 50-mark came up for India in the 24th over as Carlos Brathwaite (0-6) came on to bowl, and Dhawan-Pujara brought up the 50-partnership for the second wicket off 118 balls, just before the lunch break. (PTI)