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West Indies off to solid start after India post 353

Wriddhiman Saha

Gros Islet : Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha struck sparkling centuries to lift India to 353 before the West Indies responded strongly to end day two at 107 for one in the third Test here.

Ashwin (118) and Saha (104) put India in control of the game with a marathon 213-stand before the wicketkeeper’s dismissal triggered a batting collapse as the visitors lost their last five wickets for 37 runs.

In reply, the West Indies made a promising start through Kraigg Brathwaite (53*) and Darren Bravo (18*) who played out the Indian bowlers with little difficulty. The hosts still trail India by 246 runs.

Post tea, Leon Johnson (23) and Brathwaite started off from 16/0 as Ashwin (0-17) started proceedings. But that was a ploy to change ends for Mohammed Shami (0-35) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-11). Though they got a little more purchase from this move, the batsmen were never really in trouble and brought up their 50-partnership in 114 balls. It was the first time the West Indies’ openers had crossed this mark in the Test series so far.

But their joy was short lived, as Lokesh Rahul made amends for his dropping of Johnson (on 4*) at second slip off Shami early in the innings. Stationed at short midwicket, he was quick to pick up the ball and a direct hit at the non-striker’s end sent Johnson back to the pavilion in the 24th over.

Bravo came to the crease then, and together batted out 23 overs with Brathwaite as the two batsmen saw off the remainder of the session without much bother and put on 48 runs for the second wicket. The pitch seemed to have eased out completely and the bowlers didn’t get much purchase out of it, even as Ravindra Jadeja (0-9) made the batsmen play as much as possible.

But at the same time, Ishant Sharma (0-26) was guilty of bowing short and wide to the batsmen. Brathwaite made full use of it, bringing up the 100-mark in the last over of the day, and reaching his fifty off 141 balls in the same over.

In the post lunch session, Ashwin finally broke free of the shackles on 99* and smacked Roston Chase (2-70) over midwicket for a six to reach his fourth Test hundred, off 265 balls, and indeed his fourth against the same opposition. He joined a select group of players – Richie Benaud (vs South Africa in 1957-58), Tony Greig (vs West Indies in 1973-74) and Ian Botham (vs Australia in 1981) – to take multiple five-wicket hauls and score multiple hundreds in the same Test series.

At the other end, Saha (104 runs, 227 balls, 13 fours) too reached his maiden Test hundred off 223 balls, and in doing so, the duo brought up their 200-run stand.

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