| Ramnaresh Sarwan (picture left) lifts one on Day III of the second Test in Chennai Saturday, while Parthiv Patel shows he has technique to deal with the short-pitched stuff. (Reuters)
Chennai, Oct. 19: The glimpses of a West Indies turnaround may just have been fleeting ones and they may well be back to their familiar battle for survival. All talk of an aggressive approach vanished once the Caribbean bowlers erred in line and Carl Hooper fell victim to a debatable decision towards the closing stages of Day III.
In what will go down as one of the longest days of Test cricket in the country, more than seven hours were played to make up for lost time. At the end of it, the visitors had managed to wipe off the 149-run deficit and even gained a slender 37-run lead.
The circumstances might look a bit bleak for the Caribbeans but, then, they simply let the opportunity go by. The bowling teetered from the ordinary to the inadequate.
The outcricket degenerated into a litany of fumbles, misfields and dropped chances, so that by the end they looked a bunch dejected with the realisation that the chance was gone already.
In justifiable contrast to the downcast West Indies, Harbhajan Singh was clearly upbeat. “We are in a good position,” he said later. “We have to put them under pressure with early wickets on Sunday morning. We just need to bowl to a plan.”
The West Indies can’t really do much after the horse has bolted the stable but, at one stage, they did have everything going in their favour. They had half the Indian side dismissed for 180 and would have been in a more secure position had their bowlers not tried to experiment on this pitch.
On the contrary, the batsmen, Chris Gayle’s fourth-ball dismissal notwithstanding, played in a more disciplined and pragmatic manner. Wavell Hinds and Ramnaresh Sarwan added 96 for the second wicket, followed by another 72-run partnership for the fourth between Sarwan and Hooper.
Sarwan, at 21 years and 162 days, the youngest West Indian to complete 1000 Test runs and often criticised for failing to build on good starts, has showed lot of promise and talent during his 246-minute vigil at the wicket. The Guyanese batsman’s temperament was solid and shot selection accurate.
Sarwan’s 168-ball innings included two huge sixes in Harbhajan Singh’s first spell. With the rest having done little to harbour any hopes, it all depends on how Sarwan anchors the innings on the fourth morning.
The Indian spinners bowled a bad opening spell to give enough leeway to the batsmen. Anil Kumble pitched too short while Harbhajan was guilty of bowling the wrong line. Jawagal Srinath, though, drew some inspiration from his batting to strike two crucial blows.
“There is not much turn. Even the bounce is less than the last time we played here. As for my bowling, it’s been so far so good,” added Harbhajan.
Hinds was aggressive for his 61 but it was that trait that eventually brought about his downfall. After lifting Harbhajan for a six, he failed trying a repeat, hitting against the spin to land in the hands of Sourav Ganguly. The Indians had been looking desperate for the breakthrough.
For once, Shivnarine Chanderpaul failed but Hooper was in majestic touch. He hit Kumble for two sixes in one over but the leg spinner finally brought his 58-ball innings to a close. The ball, however, appeared to have missed the gloves on way to the ’keeper.
It was a bit of see-saw day for the Indians. The early fall of V.V.S. Laxman did not dampen the spirits of the late-order. Having learnt its lessons from the top-order, they never committed the same mistakes that had hindered their run-scoring spree on the second day.
Not bogged down by the circumstances, Parthiv Patel and Harbhajan Singh never let the bowlers dictate terms. Parthiv kept one end intact while Harbhajan did not hesitate to live life a little too dangerously through his unorthodox strokeplay. The off-spinner himself must have lost count of the number of times he survived during his 43-ball 37.
Parthiv presented a straight bat and showed the composure and application that belied his tender years and inexperience. Strong off his legs, he did not hesitate to pull Jermaine Lawson over square leg when the fast bowler bounced one to him.
Srinath prospered in Parthiv’s company and his clean hitting often took the opposition by surprise. The new ball made no impact as he carted the bowling all around the park.
Had Srinath and Zaheer Khan not decided to run themselves out, the lead could have more intimidating. The Indians are obviously not wishing to face a tough target on the fourth innings and will be looking to wrap it up with a day to spare.