It was like an afternoon stroll on a warm winter’s day. By the end of it, Virat Kohli had notched up another inevitable-looking hundred, Ravindra Jadeja had entertained his home crowd with a maiden hundred, a run-out where he walked from mid-on and threw the stumps down as if playing marbles, and a wicket off his first ball, Rishabh Pant had attacked his way to 92, India had registered their highest total against West Indies, and the visitors ended the day 555 behind with four first-innings wickets in hand. It seemed so easy you would be forgiven for forgetting they were actually playing in dry, 40-degree heat.
The availability of loose balls and defensive fields meant the India batsmen had to barely break a sweat when they resumed play on the second day at 364 for 4. Sherman Lewis bothering Pant with the short ball for about one over, and Keemo Paul beating his bat as a result of that, was the most competitive period of play in this Test.
With nearly 400 on the board, Pant kept playing his shots, and when they come off they looked amazing. The flick off the pads was the most productive against pace, and once West Indies went back to spin, Pant was all over them. Over midwicket, over mid-on, taking on long-off at the boundary. At one point, Pant threatened to beat Kohli to the century despite starting the day 55 behind. Eventually, there was one shot too many, as he failed to pick a Devendra Bisho googly and edged a hoick.
There was no such uncertainty around Kohli’s hundred. It seemed like batting practice for him. He was hardly challenged by the bowling and the conditions. It was like a session where a batsman is trying to reinforce the basics in the nets. Leave wide balls alone; drive if it is too full; if it is a touch straight, close the bat face late. He ran hard. There were enough bad balls in between for him to not need to take any risks to put the bowlers under pressure. His century was his 24th, taking him past Virender Sehwag on the list of India’s most prolific centurions, and placing him behind only Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
When he off-drove the first ball he faced post lunch for only his eighth boundary, Kohli crossed 1000 runs for the third year in a row. He began to take risks now. Having survived a return catch before lunch, he picked a wrong’un and smacked it over midwicket for four. He began to walk down against pace, eventually getting a leading edge that ended his innings.
Jadeja had by then established himself at the wicket, having added 64 with Kohli. As wickets fell at the other end, finally giving Bishoo some reward for his unremarkable toil that gave him 4 for 217 – the second-most expensive figures for West Indies, Jadeja grew adventurous. The half-century was uneventful, his sword-wielding promising that he had something special planned to celebrate a hundred.
Thanks to their run rate, India had a lot of time to allow Jadeja a shot at the landmark, but they had lost eight wickets by then. However, Jadeja found support from Umesh Yadav as they added 55 for the ninth wicket. Jadeja showed the urgency required, hitting the second ball he faced after his fifty for a six back over Bishoo’s head. That was the first of his five sixes. He went from 50 to 98 in 34 balls despite refusing singles when batting with the No. 11 Mohammed Shami.
That West Indies were a beaten lot showed in their captaincy. The first ball Shami faced was the 25th of the 10th-wicket partnership. The field didn’t change at all at the end of the overs, allowing Jadeja to take the single and retain the strike. Shami kept his end of the bargain, allowing Jadeja to get to the hundred. The celebration, it turned out, was joyous, involving a long look at the heavens above, but he didn’t add any variant to his sword dance.
As India took the field, a seemingly flat pitch suddenly became venomous. Before he walked off clutching his side, Shami had removed the openers in a four-over opening spell. He bowled with a beautiful seam position, attacked the stumps, and benefited from the skiddy bounce he gets. R Ashwin soon got into the act, dismissing Shai Hope with an offbreak that didn’t turn. With the ball still new, and his seam parallel to the ground, it wasn’t entirely unintentional.
Sunil Ambris and Shimron Hetmeyer went on to self-destruct. Hetmeyer and Ambris ended up at the striker’s end after Hetmeyer hit a shot a touch too well to Jadeja at mid-on. Jadeja teased him by walking slowly to the stumps and then throwing the ball on top of them. Ambris was teased by a flighted ball first up, which he looked to hit over mid-off but edged to slip. Shane Dowrich then tried to hit a big shot off Kuldeep Yadav, presenting him with a gate to burst through. Six wickets in 29 overs. (ESPNCricinfo)