Wickets fell, but not frequently enough for India’s taste, as the West Indies closed in on India’s score with five wickets in hand.
Brathwaite is as traditional as it gets these days.
The West Indies are 229 runs behind India (Brathwaite 75, Athanaze 37*, Holder 11*, Jadeja 2-37, Mukesh 1-35). 209 runs separated by 438 runs
India’s attack toiled away on a sluggish Port-of-Spain ground on a rain-soaked third day, taking only four wickets. West Indies finished with 229 for 5 at slightly more than two runs per over in response to India’s 438, improving their chances of a draw. Kraigg Brathwaite led the West Indies’ persistent resistance with 75 off 235 balls until India’s spinners and Mohammed Siraj exposed their lower-middle order.
Mukesh Kumar, India’s debutant, first dismissed West Indies rookie Kirk McKenzie for 32 off 57 balls in the morning before rain forced an early lunch. R. Ashwin then broke through Brathwaite’s solid defenses in a 15-over post-lunch shift. R. Ashwin bowled Brathwaite through the gate with a complex cocktail of loop, drift, and turn after landing a stock offbreak on the footmarks.
Brathwaite appeared unmovable until Ashwin knocked him out in his 26th over. However, Ashwin had been building up to this dismissal in a lengthy session by confounding Brathwaite’s judgment, particularly with drift. Ravindra Jadeja, too, put pressure on the West Indies hitters and terminated Jermaine Blackwood’s over-the-wicket vigil.
Jadeja extracted a turn and bounce from that angle, but the dismissal was made possible by Ajinkya Rahane’s remarkable one-handed catch at slip. Despite being dazzled by wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, who diverted the ball off his glove, Rahane played a fantastic shot.
The first session was far from spectacular. The bad weather only allowed 10.4 overs on the third morning, when the West Indies struck 31 despite losing McKenzie. After starting the day on 37, Brathwaite reached his 29th half-century in the post-lunch session, his second slowest in Test cricket. Off 170 balls, he tiptoed to the marker. His slowest fifty was against Bangladesh in North Sound last year, off 174 balls.
Brathwaite is as traditional as it gets these days. He has appeared in around 200 first-class matches but has yet to appear in an official T20 match. Brathwaite refused to catch the bait when Mukesh hung the ball outdoors. Brathwaite defended tenaciously when Mukesh straightened his lines and targeted the stumps with twin short midwickets and a short square leg in position. Before Ashwin conjured up his magic, he also dead-batted Siraj and the spinners.
Alick Athanaze batted with more freedom, picking Ashwin away for back-to-back fours as Blackwood struggled to 20 off 92 balls. In the last practice, which was again disrupted by rain and poor lighting, Ashwin and Jadeja slowed him down, but he held them off with his defensive style. Joshua Da Silva, a local, stayed around with him in a 30-run fifth-wicket stand before Siraj castled him with his wobble-seam delivery that veered in like a fast offcutter.
Jason Holder then got in on the act with a square-driven four from Siraj, keeping Athanaze company until stumps.
McKenzie had played more appealing strokes on the third morning before the rain came in. He punched Jaydev Unadkat for four in a row, making his hero and fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle proud. Unadkat was forced to dig the ball into the pitch, but McKenzie was ready to pull him for four more. Mukesh bowled McKenzie for 32 off 57 balls, his first Test wicket and 150th first-class wicket.
It was just compensation for Mukesh’s hard work over a long stretch of time off. Perhaps this is why India chose him over Navdeep Saini when Shardul Thakur was ruled out of this Test due to a groin injury. Mukesh returned to the offensive line to take the second new ball, but although he found some swing, he couldn’t make another breakthrough.
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