NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA), July 25:
India recorded their biggest win outside the sub-continent as they thrashed a listless West Indies by an innings and 92 runs in the opening cricket Test, riding on a fantastic seven-wicket haul by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin here.
Ashwin produced an off-spin bowling masterclass to grab 7/83 and triggered a second-innings slide that saw the hosts collapse from 88/2 to 132/8 on the fourth and penultimate day.
A defiant ninth-wicket stand of 95, West Indies’ highest in the game, between Carlos Brathwaite (51 not out) and Devendra Bishoo (45) delayed the inevitable before Ashwin came back to seal the issue by bowling the hosts out for 231.
This was also the Tamil Nadu spinner’s first five-wicket haul outside the Asian continent.
India bowled out the West Indies for 243 in their first innings, having amassed 566 for eight declared after opting to bat. Forced to follow-on after conceding a massive lead of 323, the hosts failed to cope up with intense pressure created by Ashwin and Co on a pitch that offered assistance to slow bowlers.
At the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, the visitors shot out the hosts in three hours over the post lunch and tea session to finish their two innings at 243 and 231.
After tea, Brathwaite reached his third Test fifty, but the rest of the innings folded in just over 40 minutes. Bishoo hit straight to midwicket off Ashwin in the 78th over, and three balls later bowled Shannon Gabriel (4) to wrap up the proceedings with a day to spare.
Post lunch, it was an extended session of play which proved enough for India to force a win. But first they had to break through the 67-run partnership between Rajendra Chandrika (31) and Marlon Samuels (50). The two batsmen began again in the same vein, trying to play for time, and in doing so, the latter crossed the 50-mark off 74 balls raising hopes of a fight back.
But it was short-lived as Chandrika had a faint inside-edge off Ashwin in the 36th over, judged accurately by the umpire and caught on the third attempt by Wriddhiman Saha. It started the slide for West Indies and the off-spinner barged into the opening he had found.
In the very next over, he removed Jermaine Blackwood (0) for a second duck in the match, with skipper Virat Kohli holding a magnificent diving catch at midwicket to aid in the dismissal.
Then came the best moment for Ashwin, as a beautiful delivery beat Samuels’ straight bat and knocked back his off-stump in the 42nd over.
Earlier, post lunch, it was an improved display by the Indian bowlers who looked to change their line and length from the morning. And the change could be seen almost immediately as Shami started proceedings after the break. He kept both Brathwaite (74 runs) and Marlon Samuels (1) guessing, inducing an edge off the latter in the 49th over.
Four deliveries later, it became a double blow, as Jermaine Blackwood (0) was unable to fend off a sharp rising delivery and was caught at gully by Ajinkya Rahane.
Thereafter a short partnership developed between Brathwaite and debutant Roston Chase (23) and they looked comfortable at the crease for the duration of their 47-run stand.
Brathwaite went on to score his 9th Test fifty off 156 deliveries, while the West Indies’ 100-mark came up in the 51st over. Indian skipper Virat Kohli then went on the offensive and played around with his fielding combinations, putting in as many as five close-in catching positions for his pacers.
The trick worked as Yadav broke through, first dismissing Chase who was caught at midwicket with Kohli doing the necessary catching himself. Two overs later, the same aggressive fielding worked as Brathwaite was forced to fend off a short delivery instead of pulling it, and edged behind to keeper Wriddhiman Saha, who affected his fifth dismissal of the innings.
Ashwin could have had a wicket too, towards the end of the session as Shane Dowrich edged to Rahane at slip, but the ball was seen to have bounced on replay. Jason Holder was the other unbeaten batsman.
Starting at their overnight score of 31/1, Bishoo looked to stay with his partner for as long as possible, and he was successful in achieving that goal. He frustrated the Indian bowlers for nearly 70 minutes, and in this interim, saw off Ishant, Yadav and Shami without much discomfort.
About 40 minutes were left for lunch when rain intervened and cut short the session. Despite the shower passing by, the umpires called for an early lunch to allow for the ground staff to prepare the field for resumption.(PTI)