Captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were working India into a comfortable position at 157 for three at tea on the opening day of the second and final Test of the series against the West Indies at Sabina Park on Friday.
After navigating a testing morning session when two wickets fell in Jamaica, the tourists lost opening batsman Mayank Agarwal for 55 in the afternoon to Jason Holder, the West Indies skipper taking his second wicket of the innings.
However Kohli, who was unbeaten on 52 at the interval, and Rahane (20 not out), will resume in the final session of the day’s play having put on 42 so far for the fourth wicket and with the home side needing to separate them quickly to justify Holder’s decision to put India in.
On a green-tinged pitch it was the home captain who gave his side the early breakthrough. He brought himself into the attack after half-an-hour’s play and removed K.L. Rahul in his first over via a straightforward catch by debutant Rahkeem Cornwall at first slip.
One of two newcomers to senior international cricket in the home side, the burly 26-year-old off-spinning all-rounder then enjoyed his first success with the ball when he extended Chesteshwar Pujara’s run of low scores in the series, the batsman being caught by Shamarh Brooks at backward-point for six off a miscued cut in Cornwall’s third over.
Kohli joined Agarwal with the third-wicket pair gradually taking control of the situation either side of the lunch interval in a stand worth 69 runs.
Agarwal reached the third half-century of his fledgling international career before becoming Holder’s second wicket, again via another first slip catch by the alert Cornwall.
Cornwall has replaced medium-pacer Miguel Cummins from the team thrashed by 318 runs inside four days in the first Test a week earlier in Antigua.
Shai Hope, who was drafted into wicketkeeping duties in that match due to injury to regular gloveman Shane Dowrich, failed a late fitness test on a damaged hand, allowing Jahmar Hamilton to become the first cricketer from the U.S. Virgin Islands to play at senior level for the West Indies.
India unsurprisingly retained the same team as they seek a clean sweep of all the completed international matches of this campaign and also a first-ever clean sweep of a Test series in the Caribbean.
Victory in the tour-ending match will also elevate Kohli above Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India’s most successful leader ever in Test cricket. Last week’s win in the opening Test was his 27th at the helm.
There was a worrying moment before the start of play when former West Indies captain Vivian Richards had to be helped off the field and taken away for medical treatment when he seemed to fall ill.
Working as a commentator in the television coverage of the series, Richards appeared to be affected by the intense heat of the morning while involved in the pre-match coverage.
Medical officials confirmed the situation as a case of heatstroke for the legendary batsmen and it is understood that he was recovering well.