Tue, 24 Sep 2019

Tea India 134 for 4 (Rahane 50*, Vihari 18*, Roach 2-24) v West Indies

India had an afternoon session of relative calm, losing only KL Rahul as they made just under double their score of 68 at lunch before rain brought an early end to the second session. Ajinkya Rahane - who brought up his sixth fifty since the start of 2018 - and Hanuma Vihari saw them through to the end of the session with an unbroken 41-run stand.

If the first session was about easing off on the big drives, the second one was just as much about cashing in on the full ones. Both Rahul and Rahane had been out long enough to understand the two-paced pitch, and with next to no swing on offer, expanded their games to bring out the cover drives they had so patiently hidden early on.

Rahul had been the more jittery opener early on, taking 15 balls to get off the mark. To his credit, that seemed the result of a clear plan not to chase balls away from his body. When he made it through the turbulent first hour, and the sun came out in the second half of the session, he cashed in with three driven boundaries down the ground, and all of them to extremely full balls.

But just as he looked like he had set himself up for big runs, he was caught sharply down the leg side by stand-in wicketkeeper Shai Hope off Roston Chase's second ball. Rahul's disappointment was visible as he walked off. As one of India's batsmen with a point to prove, and the prospect of a substantial score overseas gone, it wasn't surprising.

At the other end, Rahane also had a point to prove. Having been greeted at the crease with a cutter into his mid-riff, Rahane was kept silent - Holder bowled four straight maidens to him. But as the sun came out and West Indies' bowlers stopped finding help from the surface, Rahane dug in, occasionally counterpunching and making sure to keep his hook shots down.

That solidity was transferred into his boundary making strokes as well, but an inexplicable jump down the track against Chase nearly gave West Indies a second soft wicket in the 41st over. Rahane did not make the pitch of the ball and scooped one over Miguel Cummins at mid-on, who did superbly to sprint backwards and stay under it, without being able to hold on after lunging near the boundary line. Rahane then gloved one past Hope down leg side in the same over. Having survived those, Rahane tightened up as he took himself to 50, an important score for India's vice-captain, who has averaged a middling 32.36 since the start of 2018.

West Indies' fast bowlers were just as good with their lines but didn't find too much assistance from the conditions. With little to be had in terms of swing, the plan was to be full, with mid-off and mid-on extremely straight in order to save any potential boundaries. It was a plan to contain, and it did its job, although when India scored runs, they came with little resistance. For instance, from the start of the session to Rahul's dismissal, every over that wasn't a maiden fetched India at least five runs.

In the first session, West Indies produced a fiery opening sequence after electing to bowl, pinning a disoriented Indian top order down to 25 for 3 in the first hour.

In a largely cloudy first hour, Kemar Roach was, by some distance, the bowler who bowled the fullest length on average and was rewarded on a pitch that offered bounce and climb. Roach had both openers pinned to the crease with deliveries that were spitting up from a good length and seaming either way. It didn't take him long to get one of them to poke with hard hands, although Mayank Agarwal had no choice but, against a ball holding its line after coming in from a wide of the crease release. He got a thin outside edge, as did Cheteshwar Pujara four balls later. India's No. 3 was rooted to his leg stump leg stump guard and pushing away from the body, although based on the off stump line, he too had little choice.

The deliveries leading up to Virat Kohli's wicket involved bouncers and body blows. Gabriel had been spliced through point and then driven down the ground by India's captain, who, per usual, had looked India's most confident batsman within minutes of arriving. That was until Gabriel two consecutive short balls, including one that stuck in the pitch and snuck under Kohli's early pull shot to hit him on his right elbow. Kohli was promptly up on his toes to try and smother the next short ball in the direction of the slips, but it appeared to come on slower. Jabbing away from the body, he ended up lobbing it harmlessly to Brooks at gully.

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