Jamaica Gleaner / The batting challenges which plagued the West Indies against India in the first Royal Stag Test in Antigua continued yesterday after they were bowled out for 196 in the first innings of the second Test at Sabina Park.
Electing to bat after winning the toss, the West Indies were piloted by middle-order batsman Jermaine Blackwood with a run-a-ball 62. However the rest of the team struggled against Indian off-spinner Ravi Ashwin.
India, who lead the four-match series 1-0, then made batting look easy and closed the first day on 126 for one.
Ashwin, named Man of the Match in the first Test, and who was claiming his third five-wicket haul in as many matches, ended with five for 52.
He got good support from fast bowlers Mohammed Sami, and Ishant Sharma, who ended with two for 23, and two for 53, respectively.
Marlon Samuels, who shared in a fighting third-wicket stand of 81 with Blackwood, made a watchful 37 off 88 balls.
“The innings was just me getting back into my normal self,” stated Blackwood, who, prior to yesterday, made four zeros in his last seven trips to the wicket.
”I want to thank my teammates as they have been very supportive as all players go through a bad patch, and I guess it was my time.
”I am happy I was able to contribute to the team, albeit we did not bat as well as we should, but it’s just the first day of the match, and it is for us to try and make a comeback.”
The West Indies, who made one change to the eleven who played the first Test, fast bowler Miguel Cummins, replacing all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite, decided to bat first on a damp grass-top pitch and from very early, looked to have made the wrong decision.
They lost their first three wickets with a mere seven runs on the board inside the first six overs with Sharma and Shami utilising the conditions to telling effect.
Brathwaite was the first to go in the third over when he fended off a short ball from Sharma and was caught close in for one.
This was followed a ball later by the dismissal of his replacement, Darren Bravo, who again showed a weakness outside of his off stump. He edged an outswinging delivery and was dismissed caught at first slip without scoring.
The third wicket in the innings, which came after 5.1 overs, was that of the other opener, Rajendra Chandrika, who, as if it were catching practice, guided a short delivery to second slip off the bowling of Shami.
It was then left up to Samuels and Blackwood to shore up the innings, which they tried best to do with Blackwood, who was on a pair of zeros from the first Test, starting shakily but eventually getting into his own.
He slammed a number of authoritative boundaries, particularly down the ground, which resulted in seven fours and four sixes.
He, however, lost his wicket on the stroke of lunch. With three balls remaining before the interval, he misread a sharp-turning delivery from Ashwin and was adjudged leg before wicket.
Samuels, in attempting to change gear after lunch, began to cut loose with a flurry of boundaries. However, he perished when he advanced to a flighted Ashwin delivery and failed to reach the pitch. He tried to adjust into a defensive shot, only to succeed in nudging a catch to silly mid-on.
His dismissal with the score on 115 for five thereafter triggered another batting slump with the regional men slipping fast to 158 for nine.
The Indians, who started batting after tea, had little, trouble in getting their runs on the board. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and the recalled Lokesh Rahul put on a solid 87 for the first wicket.
The former was, however, to depart off the bowling of part-time off-spinner Roston Chase after reaching 27. He was caught at short cover after attempting a drive.
The visitors then saw out the rest of the day with Rahul closing unbeaten on 75 and Chesteshwar Pujara, 18.