Gros Islet: Indian batsmen faltered against the rising ball before Lokesh Rahul’s solid 50 left his team at 87 for three at lunch on day one of their third Test against the West Indies here on Tuesday.
At the Darren Sammy Stadium, Ajinkya Rahane (17 not out) and Rohit Sharma (9 not out) were the unbeaten batsmen going into the break, after India made a minor recovery from 19 for two at one stage.
It was after West Indies won the toss and elected to field given the lively pitch here. They made two changes, bringing in Leon Johnson for dropped opener Rajendra Chandrika and then opting for 19-year-old pacer Alzarri Joseph in place of leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.
India made three changes from the Jamaica Test, bringing in Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra and Umesh Yadav, respectively.
Shannon Gabriel (1-33) and Joseph (1-15) then started proceedings with the new ball against Shikhar Dhawan (1) and Rahul (50 runs, 65 balls, 6 fours).
Gabriel started off with couple loose deliveries that allowed Rahul to get going easily, and was in complete contrast to what was to come later on. Soon enough, the fast bowling duo worked up their pace and their plans bore fruit.
They used the short ball to good effect, particularly Gabriel as he squeezed Dhawan for room down the leg side. The left-handed opener looked to pull one in the third over, and edged to the keeper Shane Dowrich.
Surprisingly then, skipper Virat Kohli (3) came out to bat and was tested immediately with a mix of short and moving deliveries. It was a bold move, but it didn’t work as Kohli edged a rising delivery from the young Joseph to first slip where Darren Bravo completed a regulation catch.
India were in all sorts of trouble then, but Rahul added 58 runs for the third wicket with Rahane who came in at no.4. The Karnataka opener continued his good run of form, and scored a chanceless first Test half-century. He was comfortable against the short ball attack from Gabriel-Joseph and then negotiated Miguel Cummins (0-22) and Jason Holder (0-6) easily as well.
He helped bring up the 50-mark for India in the 13th over, and his 50-partnership with Rahane came off 68 balls. Thereafter Rahul reached his fifty off 64 deliveries, as Roston Chase (1-6) came on to bowl. But off the very next ball, in the 20th over, fell to the West Indies’ trap, as he hit straight to Kraigg Brathwaite at short fine leg.
Rahane had looked uncomfortable against Holder again, but tightened up his game to survive until lunch. Rohit had come out to bat thereafter, and faced a couple testing overs from Gabriel. But he too survived the little phase before the break.
India lead the four-match series 1-0, after winning the first Test in Antigua by an innings and 92 runs. The second Test in Jamaica was drawn.
India 1st innings (at lunch)
L. Rahul c K. Brathwaite b Chase 50
S. Dhawan c Dowrich b Gabriel 1
V. Kohli c D. Bravo b Joseph 3
A. Rahane (not out) 17
R. Sharma (not out) 9
Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1, w-1) 7
Total (3 wkts, 23 overs) 87
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-19, 3-77.
To bat: R. Ashwin, W. Saha, R. Jadeja, I. Sharma, M. Shami, B. Kumar.
Bowling: S. Gabriel 7-0-33-1 (nb-1); A. Joseph 5-1-15-1; M. Cummins 4-0-22-0 (w-1); J. Holder 4-2-6-0; R. Chase 3-1-6-1.
Umpires: Nigel Llong; Rod Tucker.
TV umpire: Gregory Brathwaite.
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.