Collins Leads Late Windies Rally
Fri, May 10, '02
The test match in Antigua started in ideal conditions. West
Indies, as expected, brought in Wavell Hinds for Stuart Williams.
Ramnarine did not get his chance and Pedro Collins was retained.
India brought back Anil Kumble for Harbhajan Singh. Ajay Ratra,
contrary to speculation did not make way for Deep Dasgupta.
West Indies won the toss and elected to bowl. This was always a decision that was going to invite some discussion, especially if wickets did not fall in the first hour. In this case, the pitch did have some bounce, but was quite slow and perfect for batting.
Hooper may have based his decision on the fact that the first
innings of the previous test may have been playing on the minds of
the Indian batsmen. Also, the pitch is likely to roll out to be
even easier for batting as the test goes on, and Hooper may be
backing the West Indies to make a really big score in the first
Dillon and Cuffy started off proceedings for the West Indies, and bowled good first spells. Cuffy was accurate as usual, and got a certain amount of bounce from this pitch. Das and Jaffer started off for India, with the latter surely looking to make up for his abruptly terminated innings in Barbados. Jaffer started off with a boundary, but Das never quite looked comfortable. The West Indies seemed to have Das' dismissal in the second innings of the Barbados test in mind, and thought they could capitalize on his penchant for playing the flick off the pads. Rather surprisingly, Collins was placed at shortish square leg for this shot. Cuffy did get Das to play the shot, but Collins dropped a sharp chance. The tactic was planned very well, except that one of the more agile fielders was not placed in position for the shot.
Pedro Collins was brought on very early and in his first over, got a delivery to bounce to Das. The batsman did not get completely behind the line, and could not control his shot. An inside edge to the stumps saw Das return to the pavilion for 3. India was 13 for 1 and Hooper's decision to bowl already looked like a good one.
Dravid joined Jaffer, and they set about building a partnership. As he did in Barbados, Jaffer looked solid in defense, and played some scintillating shots through the offside. With their short of length bowling and the lack of lateral movement both here and in the second innings in Barbados, the bowlers gave Jaffer the option of waiting on the backfoot for the ball to come to him. It will be more interesting to see how he fares when he is made to play more off the front foot, especially to deliveries pitched on or about the off stump.
Pedro Collins, rather surprisingly, did not opt to come around the wicket and consequently did not get the ball to leave the right hander late as he did in the second innings in Barbados. As a result, he bowled a lot of deliveries on or around off stump that just held their line. With the delivery coming back into the right hander not being part of Collins' repertoire, Jaffer took heavy toll of this offstump line.
Even in Barbados, it was rather obvious that Jaffer was extremely strong on the offside, especially to deliveries that allowed him to play off his backfoot. With Collins' line on or just outside off stump, another worthwhile tactic may have been to try and have two gullies, for the miscued square drive. However, the field square on the offside was not reinforced, and the runs mounted. To Jaffer's credit, some of the shots were exceptionally well timed. One cover drive, for which Jaffer went down on one knee, would already be a candidate for 'Shot of the Match'.
By the time Sanford replaced Collins, both Indian batsmen were already well entrenched. While he is not express, as Mike Holding or Malcolm Marshall were, Sanford did generate a fair amount of pace, but it was largely negated by the solidity shown by the batsmen and by the pitch. Some of Sanford's short deliveries did make the batsmen hurry, and one bouncer struck Rahul Dravid a sharp blow on the helmet. Dravid took his eyes off while ducking, and the delivery did not quite rise as much as expected.
Sanford varies his pace well, with his quicker delivery being significantly quicker than his average delivery. This is especially deceptive because he does not run in very hard, or from a great distance, and generates most of his pace by using his shoulder in the delivery stride. But his basic length on this pitch has been short of a length, as a result of which his bouncers do not have the surprise element. Both Jaffer and Dravid were able to negotiate him rather comfortably by playing him off the backfoot.
After lunch, Collins still persisted with his offstump line, and also bowled a few deliveries on the pads and both Jaffer and Dravid scored their runs with ease. The other bowlers bowled well, especially Cuffy who beat the bat on a few occasions. The ground fielding was overall very good, except for a few runs that came off misfields by Collins. The West Indies team management seems to have put in some work into the ground fielding, and the results are there to see. Wavell Hinds made his presence felt in the match, with some very smart saves in the field, especially square on the leg side.
The post lunch session completely went in favour of India, with the score on 153/1 at tea. Dravid and Jaffer looked as if they would take the game away from the West Indies. At this point, it seemed as if the West Indian bowlers would have to bowl a tight line and length and slow down the flow of runs in order to bring some pressure on the Indian lineup. Either that or one of the West Indian bowlers would have to come up with something special to justify Hooper's decision to bowl first.
After tea, the attack was taken up by Dillon and Collins. After adding just a few runs to his score at tea, Jaffer edged a delivery from Collins that held its line. Jacobs held the nick and Jaffer walked without waiting for the umpire's finger. West Indies had broken through. The partnership between Jaffer and Dravid was worth 155 runs.
In came Sachin Tendulkar, with scores of 0, 0 and 8 behind him. His first delivery from Collins pitched on off and held its line. Under normal circumstances, Tendulkar would probably have let the delivery go. But this was his first ball, and with his current form being what it is, he pushed forward and got a nick. The edge carried comfortably to Jacobs, and suddenly, with India on 168/3, West Indies were on top. After a very strong beginning, this series has turned into a nightmare of sorts so far for Sachin Tendulkar. Full credit to Pedro Collins who, for the second time in three innings, bowled an excellent first delivery to Tendulkar.
Tendulkar's dismissal caused the bowlers to bowl with renewed fire. Cuffy, especially, bowled a beautiful, probing spell to Ganguly. A couple of bouncers that he bowled were tremendous, and his line, as always, was immaculate. As in Barbados, Cuffy's accuracy sealed one end up completely and the pressure was on Dravid and Ganguly to score off the other bowlers. With runs hard to come by, the Indians fought on. After one expensive over from Sanford, the pressure started to ease. Sanford tried to bounce Ganguly, possibly in an attempt to induce a false shot. Ganguly who did fall hooking in Georgetown, but who averages over 80 in this series so far, got into position quickly and pulled him for six. A total of eleven runs were scored off that over, including another boundary.
Play ended with India on 225/3. The West Indies can justifiably feel optimistic about tomorrow, since they came back into the game in the last session. Cuffy looked the pick of the bowlers, but does not have the wickets to show for it. Collins was somewhat expensive, but very significantly, has taken all three wickets to fall so far. Dillon did pose some problems, but his spell towards close of play with the new ball, was lacking in penetration. He will be looking to assert himself in the rest of the Indian innings. Sanford was the disappointment, bowling mostly very short, or very full on occasion.
But for the blow to his helmet, Dravid has hardly put a foot wrong. Young batsmen in the West Indies would do well to look at Dravid's approach to batting in a test match. He will be the man the West Indies will be looking to dismiss when play resumes tomorrow. Ganguly also looks good, but if Dravid is dismissed, the West Indies will feel more confident since both Ganguly and Laxman are batsmen who tend to play their shots. If those two are at the crease, someone like Cuffy could keep things very tight and hope to induce a mistake.
The new ball was about six overs old at close of play. West Indies will be looking to capitalize on any early life in the wicket when play resumes. There is just one recognized batsman left after this pair is separated. Neither team has seen much runs from the tail, and if there are a couple of early wickets tomorrow, West Indies could be looking to bowl India out for less than 350. On this pitch, that would be a reasonable position for the West Indies to be in.
Regardless of what total India gets in the first innings, this will really be a test of the West Indian batting. On a pitch like this, a batting lineup that features Gayle, Hinds, Sarwan, Lara, Hooper and Chanderpaul should expect to bat for the better part of two days and put together a large total.
* Venky Maly is a special correspondent for CaribbeanCricket.com. His daily match reports and analysis will be appearing throughout the remainder of the series.