Calcutta: The collective worth of the West Indies in Mumbai was 345. In Chennai, that improved to 396. At the Eden, they have already reached 446 for five in innings No.1.
Buoyed by the 88-run lead, the visitors’ second centurion in as many days, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, declared his team had “a chance” of making it 1-2 in the Exide Cup.
Two days remain and, if anything, this final Test won’t finish inside four days. Among others, the many stallwallahs have reason to be happy.
While a draw appears the most likely result, a quick end to the West Indies’ innings and the Indians will be back in business.
John Wright, at least, isn’t discounting anything.
“I think both teams have much cricket left… Therefore, I’m not predicting though, yes, it’s a fact the wicket is still very good,” the India coach told The Telegraph, late Friday.
However, Wright acknowledged that the bowling-script (in the post-lunch session) didn’t unfold in the manner India would have liked. The wicket didn’t deteriorate either.
“We needed another breakthrough (after the dismissals of Chris Gayle and Carl Hooper)… Of course, it’s not that I’m not satisfied with the effort our boys put in… Moreover, I do feel the visitors deserve credit for batting the way they did,” he pointed out.
Chanderpaul, who now has five hundreds against India (the one other being versus England), and Marlon Samuels forced the Indians to remain wicketless for two sessions.
In fact, their unseparated association is 191 to the good — a record at the Eden — and more than offset the morning’s double-blow, when Gayle and the captain were dismissed by Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra, respectively.
Gayle, resuming on the overnight 80, added eight when Kumble claimed him pad-glove.
Then, the captain again failed to lead by example. Indeed, the manner of his dismissal (to the tenth delivery with the second new ball) confirmed yet again that when the going is rough, the most difficult of catches will stick.
More than Nehra, credit for Hooper’s exit should go to Parthiv Patel.
The teenager, a more natural ’keeper than anybody we’ve seen for quite some time, dived and, one-handed, added to the West Indies captain’s misery.
Seventeen minutes remained till lunch and, even thereafter, the Indians had no success. The left-right combination didn’t make it any easier for the bowlers.
Incidentally, though manager Ricky Skerritt declined to comment (“we don’t discuss internal matters in public”), there’s been speculation that Samuels just about got away from being disciplined in the most extreme manner.
Apparently, the West Indies Cricket Board chief, Rev. Wesley Hall, had to intervene.
Samuels, then, must have been under double pressure when he took guard: Of capitalising on his first Test opportunity, on tour, and also seeking to be recognised as one to be counted upon and not seen as ‘indisciplined’.
At stumps (20 minutes and nine overs prematurely), Samuels was on a career-best 89 (234 minutes, 167 deliveries, 15x4) to Chanderpaul’s 136 (366 minutes, 255 balls, 16x4, 1x6).
But for the two overs when Chanderpaul launched into Kumble — driving, pulling and hooking with disdain — he played the eternal grafter’s role to perfection.
Thanks to that mid-afternoon assault, Chanderpaul got his second fifty in 87 minutes and 60 deliveries. And, then, in what probably is a first for any visiting batsman, kissed the Eden turf.
“It’s something I do each time I get a hundred… Also, you’ve got to thank God,” Chanderpaul, a devout Hindu, explained in his quiet manner.
That gesture may have been routine for the left-hander, but those present won’t forget it in a hurry.
Chanderpaul, whose ancestors are from India (he doesn’t, however, know the region), picked this afternoon’s hundred as his “best,” as it’s the first overseas.
‘Built’ in the Larry Gomes mould, Chanderpaul has been having a terrific year against India. Earlier, when Sourav Ganguly’s team toured the Caribbean, the 32-year-old had totalled 562 in the five Tests.
To talk of the bowling, Sourav tried every permutation and, predictably, relied most on Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. As it turned out, both bowled 28 overs apiece.
Saturday, of course, will be a fresh day and the opening session (of two-and-half hours) could see the Test’s most competitive cricket. Being at the Eden, then, should be worthwhile.