India put up a clinical performance against the West Indies on the final day of the third Test match, beating the hosts by 237 runs and taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. If they win the final Test in Trinidad, they will go top of the ICC Test rankings. Having lost the entire third day's play to rain, it looked like this game was going to end in a draw. But from lunchtime on day four until the final wicket fell on Saturday evening, India played ruthless cricket.
Barring a slightly ponderous spell in their second innings where they struggled to score quick runs and set up an overnight declaration, they were perfect with their tactics and execution.
The injection of pace to the run scoring, that began with Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane late on day four, continued on the final morning as well, as India added a further 60 runs in nine overs, 27 of those coming from the bat of Rahane, who made it to 78 not out before the declaration came.
As ever with a declaration, it came later than most would have wanted. With two overs lost due to change of innings, it meant that 11 overs had been taken out of the game as India batted West Indies completely out of contention. They had 87 overs to take 10 wickets. Considering an entire day was already was lost to rain, the amount of time taken by Virat Kohli's men to get the 10 wickets should count as a fine achievement.
The thinking behind batting for those nine overs on Day five seemed to be that the West Indies would find chasing a target easier than batting for survival. And it worked. The hosts couldn't handle the Indian bowling on an excellent St Lucia pitch, that still had pace and carry on the final day. A shorter ball from Mohammad Shami was fended to forward short leg by Leon Johnson for a five ball duck as the West Indies inning started as it would go on.
Three balls later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar found some of the swing that had tormented the West Indian batsmen in the first innings, to pin Brathwaite LBW for four runs from 20 balls. Both openers were gone and the score was 4 for two.
Still, the West Indies had their two most experienced batsmen at the crease — Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo. If this was going to be anything other than a defeat, one of the two men, if not both, had to be there at the end.
Samuels wasn't there at the end. In fact, he lasted only 27 balls. His habit of hanging back in the crease had already found him in difficulty in this Test, when he was bowled by an in-swinging ball from Bhuvneshwar. In the second innings, there was a near identical dismissal, except it was Ishant Sharma who did the bowling and West Indies were 35 for three.
After Samuels went, Bravo hung around and made 59 from 100 balls, the only significant contribution of the innings. Unfortunately for the West Indies, no one else was up to the task and their chances of saving the game became less and less likely. When the barnacle like Roston Chase was dismissed for 10 by another Ishant in-swinger that bowled a batsman, the game was over for the West Indies.
At least Bravo made the Indians wait. Wickets were tumbling around him the whole time he was at the crease, but when he went, it became only about saving themselves from the embarrassment of being bowled out for under 100 by India for the first time in their Test history. They snuck into three figures thanks to some lusty blows from Shannon Gabriel, but from the moment Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled that brilliant spell after lunch on Friday, this result was grimly inevitable.
As for India, they have been fantastic over the last two days of this Test. They proved they can do both — score runs and take wickets when the pitch favours seam bowling. They showed that when the need arises, they can accelerate their run-rate and set up a victory. They demonstrated a killer instinct that was missing in Jamaica when the West Indies secured a hard fought draw.
This is Anil Kumble's first series as coach of the Indian team and it has been a net positive after this match. Any questions about intent or execution have been answered by a team that is starting to gel in the aftermath of MS Dhoni's departure. He was such a colossal figure that it was always going to take some time for this to become Virat Kohli's team. That process is nearing its completion.
There are far sterner Tests to come for this team, both at home and away, but all you can do is beat the opposition that you are presented with and set a benchmark for the style of cricket that you want to play. After misfiring on both counts at times in this series, this Test was a congruence of both.
There are still some question marks over the make-up of this team. They may struggle to play just five specialist batsmen against stronger sides; Virat Kohli does not look the right fit batting at three; quite who their openers are is up for debate; the Rohit Sharma conundrum seems as perplexing as Fermat's Last Theorem. But the outlook is a rosy one as they head to Port of Spain with the chance to become the highest ranked side in the world.
First Published On : Aug 14, 2016 13:23 IST