A late burst by senior fast bowler Ishant Sharma earned him a five-wicket haul and reduced the West Indies to 189 for eight in reply to India’s first innings total of 297 at the close of the second day of the first Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Friday.
Ten days away from his 31st birthday, the gangling Sharma ended the day with five for 42 off 12 overs, figures which were enhanced considerably in the final half-hour of a long day when he was single-handedly responsible for the home side losing three wickets for five runs to tilt a fairly even contest very much in favour of the tourists.
He dismissed Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Kemar Roach in the space of 13 deliveries to change the complexion of the West Indies innings from the relative comfort of 174 for five.
Captain Jason Holder will therefore only have Miguel Cummins and last man Shannon Gabriel potentially for company on the third morning with India pressing for what could be a significant first innings advantage.
Sharma and Mohammed Shami were the first to strike at the start of the West Indies innings after lunch, removing openers John Campbell and Kraigg Brathwaite after a deceptively bright start before Ravindra Jadeja added to what was already an excellent day for the all-rounder when he claimed the wicket of debutant Shamarh Brooks.
Jadeja had played the key role in extending India’s first innings as they were eventually dismissed on the stroke of lunch, the left-hander playing the dominant role as India added another 94 runs from their overnight position of 203 for six.
He was last out for 58, top-edging an attempted pull off Holder to give wicketkeeper Hope his fifth catch of the innings.
Roach was the best of the West Indies bowlers with figures of four for 66 while fellow fast bowler Gabriel claimed three for 71.
It was Roach who gave the West Indies an ideal start to the day when he removed Rishabh Pant for 24.
However any hopes the hosts entertained of quickly polishing off the tourists’ innings were frustrated by Sharma, who defied the West Indies for over an hour in contributing 19 to a 60-run eighth-wicket partnership with Jadeja.
Sharma’s admirable defiance was eventually ended though by a slower delivery from Gabriel and Shami lasted just one delivery, being caught and bowled by Chase. Jadeja was still able to get to the half-century mark though, his 11th in Test cricket. His three-hour effort spanned 112 deliveries and was highlighted by six fours and one six.
Campbell stroked a succession of boundaries at the start of the West Indies reply only to be yorked in the first over from first-change bowler Shami.
Brathwaite’s typically phlegmatic occupation of the crease ended when Sharma held on to a catch off his own bowling and Brooks, taking on the challenge of batting at number three in his first Test innings, edged an attempted cut at Jadeja for Ajinkya Rahane to take the comfortable catch on the rebound off wicketkeeper Pant.
More success followed in the final session when Darren Bravo was trapped leg-before by Bumrah, and then after putting on 42 runs for the fifth wicket with Hope, Chase was taken a short midwicket by K.L. Rahul off Sharma in the first over of a new spell for a well played 48.
But it got even better for the paceman in the extra period played to make up for time lost through rain on the first day.
He had Hope well caught low down by Pant, then came up with an even more impressive caught-and-bowled to get rid of Hetmyer before having Roach taken by captain Virat Kohli at second slip in the same over.