HUBLI – Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, as West Indies A were put to the sword by India A on the second day of their third and final unofficial Test at the KSCA Hubli Cricket Ground today.
Missed chances, marauding bees, injuries and especially a run feast served to make it a forgettable day for the West Indies A team, but not for the 15 000 fans that turned up to witness India A end the day on 334 for three, a lead of 66 runs and with two days to press home their clear advantage.
India A required a good batting show to carry on the good work done by their bowlers who restricted the West Indies to 268. They started well with both openers looking solid until the seventh over of the day. Against the run of play, Vasudevan Jagadeesh was bowled for 16 while trying to defend. The ball dropped in front of his feet but spun back towards the stumps and knocked the bails out. Left-arm pacer Delorn Johnson was the lucky bowler.
Nothing clicked for West Indies A thereafter. Gautam Gambhir (123) and Cheteshwar Pujara (139 not out) cashed in on a pitch that was offering nothing for the bowlers. As their 207-run partnership grew, so did the mistakes from the West Indies. Gambhir played a couple of firm late cuts to bring up his fifty. He had been measured in approach and in no real trouble against any bowler. He did give a chance on 56 when a thick edge was dropped at second slip. Gambhir, on 56 then, slashed, edged and the ball flew high to
Ashley Nurse who just let it slip through his hands.
That was the lone mistake in an otherwise cautious and concentrated effort.
It was as though bad luck was intent on stalking West Indies A. From overthrows and fielding lapses to injuries. Gambhir collected at least ten extra runs thanks
to overthrows but it was the injuries that hurt
Windies A the most.
Jahmar Hamilton, the wicket-keeper, injured his finger immediately after the lunch interval and had to walk off. Jonathan Carter, who filled in, suffered a similar blow just two overs later forcing Nurse to don the gloves. Now if these intervals were not enough, there was a stoppage in-between as a swarm of bees forced the players to lay flat on the ground. Captain Kieran Powell was handicapped by the loss of a bowler doing wicketkeeping duties and Assad Fudadin chipped in with a few overs. The Indian duo’s biggest challenge at this point of time was to tackle the frequent breaks but being experienced batsmen, they carried on without a fuss. The 150-run partnership was brought up just before tea as both batsmen neared hundreds.
Meanwhile West Indies A were allowed to field Chadwick Walton as the wicket-keeper by the Indian team management on the request of team manager Lockhart Sebastien.
The match referee too had acceded to the request considering the fact that two of their wicketkeepers
were injured on the field.
Gambhir had moved from 43 to 51 in just two balls but the hundred proved a little tougher. Powell brought in the fielders when Gambhir was on 99 and he was made to play out eight dot balls. He finally got it with a pull through mid-wicket but he must have known that only a big hundred would get him noticed by the selectors. He put his head down and began to collect runs once again. This had been a typical Gambhir innings. Not too flashy, not too laid-back but played with some rhythm and a lot of intense focus. However, on 122 he went back to cut a quicker delivery from off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine, missed and
Gambhir’s wicket brought in his erstwhile opening partner and quite visibly the biggest star attraction, Virender Sehwag. The crowd did not wait for the centurion to walk back nor did they care about Pujara batting on 96. It was Sehwag they wanted to see on strike. He did not keep them waiting for long. In the first over of spin that he faced, he jumped down to hit left-arm spinner Nikita Miller over the long-on boundary. On the day that Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement, Sehwag had a chance to stake a strong claim to his mentor’s number 4 spot but it was not to be. He spooned a catch back to the bowler, Miller who dabbed
it up and was eventually caught on the pitch by Nurse for 38.
Pujara, who has had a run of recent low scores, continued serenely on to a well-deserved and confidence-boosting hundred. Always one to appreciate large scores, the India A captain prized his wicket to the close and will continue tomorrow knowing his charges are calling the shots
in a match they must win to level the three-match series
at one apiece.