KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – West Indies produced a valiant effort on Wednesday but were left facing a Herculean task to win the opening Test after Rahul Dravid’s 32nd Test century put India in control at Sabina Park.
At the close of the third day, the hosts had rallied from a suspect position of 80 for three to be 131 without further loss, still 195 runs adrift of a challenging target of 326.
Their fightback was being led by elegant left-hander Darren Bravo on 30 and veteran left-hander Shiv Chanderpaul on 24, who have so far posted a precious, unbroken 51-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Earlier, captain and medium pacer Darren Sammy (4-52) and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo (4-65) finished with four wickets apiece as India were dismissed for 252 after resuming the day on 91 for three.
Dravid stroked a typically obdurate 112 to anchor the Indian innings which stuttered for the most part before finally ending on the stroke of tea with the veteran right-hander’s demise.
Left with two days and a session to reach their target, West Indies were given a rousing start by openers Adrian Barath and Lendl Simmons who added a frenetic 62 from 66 balls to put India on the back foot.
Barath, the first innings top scorer, banged 38 from 36 balls with four fours and two sixes while Simmons hit 27 from 41 balls, with three fours and a six.
However, West Indies lost two quick wickets in the space of four balls when Barath sliced seamer Praveen Kumar to third slip for Suresh Raina to hold a stinging catch, and Ramnaresh Sarwan edged an uncertain push at pacer Ishant Sharma (2-41) to be held in the cordon by Virat Kohli, without scoring.
When Lendl Simmons was bowled by a peach of a leg-cutter from Sharma at 80 for three, a familiar collapse seemed on the cards.
But Bravo stroked six attractive fours while experienced left-hander Shiv Chanderpaul has so far counted three, halting India’s victory charge and setting up an enthralling fourth day.
Dravid’s century had kept India in front on a day when their batsmen again failed to show their worth. He faced 274 balls, striking 10 fours and a six, and made Sammy pay for putting him down on six the previous evening.
More importantly, he ensured the tail wagged as a 56-run, ninth wicket stand with Amit Mishra (28) frustrated West Indies after India had slipped to 183 for eight after lunch.
India lost Kohli for 15 in the day’s fourth over but Dravid added 48 for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina who scored an attractive 27.
Bishoo struck twice before lunch removing Raina and captain MS Dhoni (16) in controversial circumstances to haul West Indies back into the contest.
The left-handed Raina was adjudged caught at leg slip by Sammy, attempting to sweep a delivery, which replays showed missed the glove and hit the batsman’s pad.
Dhoni attempted to play positively, launching Bishoo for a straight six and glancing Sammy fine for four.
His run-a-ball 16 ended when he cut Bishoo to Fidel Edwards at square cover, with replays again showing Bishoo appearing to have bowled a no-ball.
Perched on 166 for six at lunch, India suffered a double blow with just seven runs added when Sammy claimed Harbhajan Singh (5) and Kumar (0) in the space of three balls.
Harbhajan walked across his stumps and was lbw while Kumar was bowled hitting across the line at a straight ball.
Dravid and Mishra then frustrated the Windies bowlers with a counter-attacking stand as Sammy wrung the changes without success.
He eventually brought himself back and prised out Mishra to a catch at deep backward point before Dravid skied a catch to Sarwan at mid-on off Bishoo to end the innings.