Under-fire Indian vice captain Ajinkya Rahane saved his team’s blushes with a gritty 81 as the visitors finished Day 1 of the opening test at 203 for six in Antigua on Thursday.
The decision to axe Ravi Ashwin, left out in favour of Ravi Jadeja, took fans and pundits alike by surprise. The visitors also chose to persist with Hanuma Vihari, with the Andhra batsman getting the nod at 6 ahead of Rohit Sharma.
After being sent into bat by West Indies skipper Jason Holder in overcast conditions, Team India’s ICC World Test Championship campaign didn’t quite get off to the best of starts. Kemar Roach wrecked the top order by claiming the wickets of Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara in the space of four deliveries- both caught behind by stand in wicket keeper Shai Hope for just 5 & 2 respectively.
Three overs later Shannon Gabriel got himself into the wickets column by bagging the big scalp of Virat Kohli. Gabriel, who had tested the Indian captain with a couple of bouncers, got him with another short ball, with Kohli only able to fend the ball to debutant Shamarh Brooks at gully.
With the tourists reduced to 25/3, the West Indies smelt blood, but were denied by the pair of KL Rahul and Rahane, both of whom were coming into this series on the back of some lean scores in the longest format of the game.
The duo provided solidity to the innings by adding 68 runs for the fourth wicket, before the Karnataka batsman fell to Roston Chase for 44. The delivery, just Chase’s second of the afternoon, was a terrible one straying down leg, but Hope took a smart catch to provide the Windies a much needed breakthrough.
Chase very nearly got Rahane too, but Miguel Cummins was unable to hang on to a tough catch running back. The 31 year old made full use of that reprieve as he was involved in another valuable stand of 82 runs for the fifth wicket with Vihari.
Just as the match was threatening to swing India’s way, Roach returned to get the Windies back in the game. He got Vihari to edge one to the keeper, just like Agarwal and Pujara before him, and Hope gleefully accepted his fourth catch of the game.
Rahane fell in the final session of play for 81 as he chopped a Gabriel delivery onto his stumps. His valiant innings came saw him occupy the crease for 163 deliveries and comprised of ten boundaries.
Roach very nearly got Jadeja as well, but fortunately for India, umpire Kettleborough’s decision was overturned after a review from the southpaw.
Jadeja and Rishabh Pant took India past the 200 mark, but rain intervened again, resulting in an early finish to the day’s play, with the tourists at 203/6.
Roach was the Windies’ best bowler as he claimed 3/34, while Gabriel claimed 2 wickets.