WINDIES TOUR OF INDIA, 2018
Shaw hit a 99-ball century on Test debut. © AFP
Devendra Bishoo, West Indies’ lead spinner and someone expected to bowl those long spells in Indian conditions, is bowling his first over, the ninth of India’s innings, and Kraigg Brathwaite, the stand-in skipper, has as many as four fielders outside the ring. If that doesn’t tell you of the defensiveness in the West Indian camp, nothing will. For the entirety of play on the opening day of the Test series in Rajkot, the visitors’ lengths and fields left a lot to be desired as the 18-year-old debutant Prithvi Shaw arrived in style with a 99-ball hundred. The sparsely populated Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium would have cherished the day even more had their local man Cheteshwar Pujara too raised a triple-figure score, only to come agonisingly close and fall for 86.
What was baffling though was despite those open fields, the Indian batsmen could still score their runs at five an over till Lunch. Hit hard already by the unavailability of Kemar Roach, Windies’ attack was left toothless by the ankle sprain to their regular skipper Jason Holder, which in turn left too much for the spearhead Shannon Gabriel to do. Gabriel did nip out opener KL Rahul in his first over with an inswinging delivery but similar channels or pressures were hardly sustained by the inexperienced duo of Keemo Paul and Sherman Lewis. Cashing in on the hard lengths pursued by the bowlers, Shaw was quick to get a move on as he hit three fours off Paul in the fourth over.
Skipper Brathwaite’s hesitation to push his main bowler Gabriel showed early as he used him in short bursts, allowing India to go easy with him. Problems kept mounting from the opposite end as Paul and Lewis went for easy runs. As early as the ninth over, Bishoo was introduced into the attack but he hardly exuded any confidence, offering freebies every over. A deep midwicket and a sweeper cover were constant features of his bowling, showing the lack of confidence in his lengths. The leggie’s confidence seemed battered in Vadodara itself where he was treated ruthlessly by Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer during the two-day practice game. While he didn’t go for runs at a similar rate on Thursday, he still allowed ample scoring opportunities.
While Shaw raised his fifty off just 56 balls, Pujara feasted on Bishoo’s bowling to reach his milestone before Lunch – the first time he had done so, going past his previous best of 39 against Bangladesh in the first session of play.
Story of 1st session #INDvWI
Gabriel: 6-1-15-1 (ER 2.50, 0 X 4s)
The rest: 19-0-118-0 (ER 6.21, 20 X 4s)
— Deepu Narayanan (@deeputalks) October 4, 2018
The momentum failed to drop even on the other side of the break as Shaw and Pujara collected six fours in the first three overs on resumption. In about half an hour’s time from thereon, Shaw pinched a couple through covers to become the second youngest Indian batsman to score a Test hundred. While Pujara was on track to get a hundred as well, he nicked off to a faintly swinging delivery from Lewis, thus ending a 206-run second-wicket partnership.
Shaw seemed a little lax building up to his dismissal in the 51st over, beaten a couple of times by Roston Chase in the preceding over. The centurion returned a tame catch to Bishoo as a short ball turned away from him, only to pat it back without any purpose.
With the pitch having hardly any bite in it, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane went about their usual business knocking the bowlers around for easy runs. There were a couple of exquisitely timed straight drives from the duo as they eased themselves for the long haul. The odd one turned and stopped as Kohli would know when he was beaten on the outside edge by Chase in the 70th over. But that didn’t deter him as he kicked on to bring up his 20th half-century in Tests. Couple of overs after the 100-run stand came up for the two, Rahane in his attempt to cut a ball from Chase, feathered it to the ‘keeper. In what was the second wasted review for India, Rahane was sent back for 41 with less than half an hour’s play remaining.
The skipper and the birthday boy Rishabh Pant then saw the hosts through without any further hassles. Earlier in the day, Kohli won the toss after having lost five in a row in England as India went in with three spinners, leaving Shardul Thakur out of the eleven. The Windies were dealt with a body blow even before taking the field as Holder was ruled out, leaving all the responsibility on Gabriel and a one-Test old Paul along with the debutant Lewis in the pace battery.
Brief Scores: India 364/4 (Prithvi Shaw 134, Cheteshwar Pujara 86, Virat Kohli 72*; Sherman Lewis 1-56) vs Windies.