India out for 353 after Ashwin, Saha tons

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West Indies v India, 3rd Test, St Lucia, 2nd day

India lost their first wickets for 126 and their last five for 14, but in between the fifth and sixth R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha added 213 runs to save their blushes. Ashwin scored his fourth century, all against West Indies and two in this series, and Saha attacked his way to a maiden Test century, which countered West Indies’ plan to keep India from scoring freely on a slow outfield. In the nine overs they got before tea, West Indies managed to avoid incident.

R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha scored centuries(Associated Press photo)
R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha scored centuries (Associated Press photo)

Some of the selections in Virat Kohli’s Test team might leave you worried for the future of old-fashioned Test batsmen, but Saha and Ashwin continued to bat for the tribe after the rescue job on day one. While Ashwin, resuming on 75, gave India the solidity, it was Saha who played with intent against a limited West Indies attack happy to play the defensive game. Saha added 58 off 107 balls to his overnight 46 even as West Indies kept it tight at the other end.

The first hour of the day replicated what happened for long periods on the opening day. West Indies stacked up one side of the field, and their strike bowlers spent their energy bowling on that side of the wicket, hoping for impatient shots from the batsmen. None of that arrived.

The intent came in the second hour with Saha taking risks and Ashwin taking only what came his way, understandable given he was approaching a hundred. Saha’s effort on the second morning was a repeat of his approach on the first day. Against disciplined bowling, Saha had scored 1 off the first 34 balls he faced, 8 off the first 65, and then opened up to end the day on 46 off 122. When he came back on Wednesday he scored just 6 off the first 31 balls he faced, but then drove Alzarri Joseph through cover for the first boundary of the day, in the 10th over of the morning.

After drinks the clear plan seemed for Saha to have a go and disrupt West Indies from their plan of taking time out of the game. Sixty-one came in the second hour as opposed to 21 in the first. Saha was at the forefront, hitting all of the first five boundaries of the day. The third of those, a slog off Roston Chase, the offspinner, took him to his personal best, 64. The fourth took the partnership to 150. In the 21st over of the morning, Ashwin cut away from his body and got his first boundary of the day, moving to 99.

Even as Ashwin stayed on 99, Saha raced away from 76 to 93 by the time the players went off for their second meal of the day. In the last over before lunch, though, Shannon Gabriel caught Saha on the bare forearm with a short ball. Saha came back with a swollen elbow, but both the batsmen duly reached their centuries. In the seventh over after lunch, Saha went to drive a really full delivery from Alzarri Joseph, edging it through to Shane Dowrich.

Now the West Indies pace attack charged at the tail with renewed vigour. Having waited 281 balls for his first Test wicket, Miguel Cummins took three in 10 balls: Ravindra Jadeja following an angling delivery, and Ashwin and Ishant Sharma fending at awkward short balls. In between the Cummins carnage, Shannon Gabriel came back to get a much-deserved second wicket, Bhuvneshwar Kumar caught at short leg. That the quick bowlers were making the batsmen fend pointed to some life in the pitch; a testing period awaited West Indies.

With a new opening combination – Leon Johnson in place of Rajendra Chandrika – West Indies batted resolutely to see off the awkward period before tea. Mohammed Shami produced two chances without reward: Kraigg Brathwaite’s edge fell short of slips and Johnson’s was dropped by KL Rahul at third slip. (ESPNcricinfo)

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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