There was a gruesome inevitability about how this day would go for the respective teams. Virat Kohli, well set and looking majestic, was going to go on to score his maiden Test double ton. He would be well supported by the middle and lower order as the Indian team racked up a total that would mean they had a position of dominance for the rest of the Test.
For the West Indies, their solid but unremarkable bowling attack were going to persevere but would grow tied and start leaking runs. We all knew what was going to happen, but the ruthless way that the Indian batsmen went about making it a reality was impressive. It wasn’t even lunch time when Kohli reached his first double hundred in any form of professional cricket, going past the 197 he made against Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited back in 2008.
He was brilliantly supported by Ravichandran Ashwin who scored a superb 113. Ashwin’s batting has gone from strength to strength since he made his Test debut in 2011, and he has deserved his promotion to number six in this side. Going forward, there will be times where India want to play the extra bowler and blooding Ashwin in the middle order is an investment in the future.
He certainly rewarded the faith in him, the highest he had ever batted in Test cricket before this match was number seven, but he was averaging 31. His record against the West Indies is now really quite remarkable. Against every other opponent he averages 29 with a high score of 91 not out. When playing the West Indies his average is now 64 and he has made three hundreds, including the effort in Antigua. When he walked to the crease with his side 236-4 there was a chance of India being bowled out for a sub-par total. Instead he put together 168 run partnership with Kohli, the fifth highest stand for the fifth wicket for India against the West Indies.
As well as Ashwin played, Friday was the second successive day that was all about Kohli and his ascension to greatness. He isn’t there yet, but it is only a matter of time. He combined solidity and style in a way that hasn’t been seen in the India side since the fab four of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
The second ball after lunch brought Kohli’s innings to an end for exactly 200. It was something of a shock. A decent enough ball outside off stump from Shannon Gabriel kept a bit low and Kohli tried to poke it into the off side. He only succeeded in getting an under edge and the ball cannoned into his middle stump. Kohli couldn’t quite believe what he had done, there was a chance to get a score so big it could have challenged Virender Sehwag’s Indian record of 319. It seems strange to say a batsman will be disappointed with a maiden double ton, but here Kohli has some cause to be.
From there the steady accumulation continued but with a lot less style and grace than when Kohli was at the crease. The tactic of picking five batsmen and a wicketkeeper was a risky one, and against a stronger opponent it could land India in trouble, but having someone as capable as Ashwin as a genuine all-rounder in the making means this balance is possible.
Wriddhiman Saha was looking set to record the fourth score of over fifty in the innings when he walked past a moon ball from part time spinner Kraigg Brathwaite that inexplicably turned past his edge. He was stumped by Shane Dowrich, the young wicket-keeper’s first dismissal in Test cricket.
While it would have disappointed the Indian management to see Saha depart in a tame way once well set, the fact that the ball was gripping from the very occasional offies of Brathwaite will excite the Indian bowlers.
In truth, by the time Saha had gone, India already had enough to be thinking about a declaration, and it eventually came with the score on 566-8 with Brathwaite finishing with figures of 3-65. That gave the Indian bowlers 16 overs at the West Indians before stumps. Early wickets would give them a complete strangle hold on this game and the home team were well aware of this.
The played out four consecutive maidens at the start of the innings as they attempted to reach the close unscathed. They didn’t quite manage that, Rajendra Chandrika edging behind off the bowling of Mohammad Shami for a 43 ball 16.
There is a similar foreboding inevitability about what the West Indies can expect on Saturday. Chances are they will be bowled out a long way short of India’s total and Virat Kohli will have to make a follow on decision. Hopefully for them and for the series going forward, they confound those expectations and bat long into the third day.