India have continued there complete and utter dominance of the Antigua Test on Day three as they bowled out the West Indies to claim a massive 323 run lead on first innings. A glacial innings from Kraigg Brathwaite held them up for most of the day, but when they take the field on the fourth morning they will be hoping to wrap up an innings defeat after claiming an early wicket in the West Indies second inning, having forced them to follow on. They closed the day at 21-1, still 302 runs behind India.
If it wasn’t for Brathwaite the West Indies would have been completely embarrassed, because of him they are only facing a massive defeat. In fact, it was still a bit embarrassing for the home side.
Brathwaite began the day on 10 not out from 51 balls and he continued that watchful approach throughout his innings. There are residents at a strict religious order that deny their base desires less than Brathwaite did throughout this innings. He went shotless for long periods during the day, as he refused to be moved in the face of some excellent bowling from the tourists.He reached his half century from a mammoth 154 balls. He faced 180 dot balls and played just 38 scoring shots on his way to 74 from 218 deliveries. When attacking shots did come, they were jarring, it seemed such a contrast with the way that he was playing the rest of the time. When he launched Ravichandran Ashwin over long-on for four in the 65th over, you had to look twice to confirm it was him that did it.
His bat is blood red from all of the stains from balls that he has defended, but it was a delivery that he tried to leave that brought about his downfall. A short ball from Umesh Yadav lifted on him outside the off stump and he tried to draw the bat inside the line and he only succeeded in feathering an edge through to Wriddhiman Saha.
The star of the day was Mohammad Shami, who was the only seamer in this Test that has found consistent swing and seam throughout the game. He dismissed four of the top six, all of them edging behind. Shami combined moving the ball away from the batsmen with extra bounce. Given that he does not have the pace of the West Indies’ Shannon Gabriel it was impressive that he got the same towering bounce.
This is a good pitch. It has consistent pace and some carry. As much as this is a makeshift West Indies team drawn from the players that are still willing to play for the West Indies Cricket Board, they are far from a team of Test match rabbits. Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Jerome Blackwood may not have shown what they are capable of on Day three, but they all have decent records at this level – and against good teams.
For Shami to finish the day with four top order wickets on a placid surface was a fine achievement and one that should be praised. He could well have ended up with his third five wicket haul in Tests, or even career best figures but Umesh Yadav blasted through the tail to finish with better figures than Shami. There will be days in the remainder of Shami’s Test career where he bowls far worse and finishes with much better figures.
While much of the talk before this Test was about how the West Indies would cope with the spin of Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin, nine of the eleven wickets that India have taken in this game came from their seamers who relished the extra pace and bounce that this North Sound surface gave them.
It was Ishant Sharma who claimed the first wicket of the West Indies second innings. While Ishant had been the least threatening of the Indian seamers in the first innings, his opening over once the West Indies were following on was fantastic. The ball that dismissed the obdurate Brathwaite in that first over of the second West Indies batting effort was close to unplayable. It swung into the batsman’s very late and pinned Brathwaite lbw to leave the hosts a wicket down and still 331 runs behind India.
This match has been all too predictable and Day four will most likely be more of the same. The West Indies will need to bat far better than they have in the first innings to make India bat again, and even then it is unlikely that they will manage it. The weight of runs is pushing down on them with so much pressure, it will end up crushing them.
Even if all of the remaining batsman exceed their career averages by nearly 50 percent, they will still end with less in their two innings combined than India managed in their first dig. This will be another chastening loss for the West Indies in a format that has become like a necklace made from a large seabird for them.
Empty stadiums and poor batting displays will only further the narrative that Test cricket is in terminal decline in the region. While playing the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament on Saturday, Jerome Taylor spoke of not playing in this Test. He told Danny Morrison in a pitch side interview that he wanted to be playing in the Test but "something in the background caused me to be [at the CPL]".
This very good India side are going to win and win well, but if this kind of result isn’t going to become the norm for the West Indies regardless of the opposition, they need to find a way to get their best players taking the field for Test matches.