Stumps India 264 for 5 (Kohli 76, Agarwal 55, Vihari 42*, Pant 27*, Holder 3-39) v West Indies
Despite fine half-centuries from Mayank Agarwal and Virat Kohli, it was Jason Holder whose persistent lengths created the best impression on a topsy-turvy first day in Kingston. Holder’s three wickets – of the two half-centurions and KL Rahul – didn’t allow India to dominate any period of play on the opening day of the second Test at Sabina Park, ensuring they scored at a rate of under three through the day.
Holder had opted to bowl at the toss, stating that the grassy surface would allow their pacers to make the most of the deck. But that wasn’t to be early on as India openers Rahul and Agarwal struck at a run rate of 5.33 for the first six overs. Rahul was especially aggressive, beginning his charge off the day’s very first over when he struck Kemar Roach through the covers for four.
Soon, though, Agarwal presented a chance off Shannon Gabriel. Looking to drive, he edged one through the slips, but he looked surer two balls later while driving through the off side for a boundary.
When Gabriel went off the field unwell after just three overs, Holder brought himself on and struck with his fifth ball. Getting a length ball to straighten, he found the shoulder of Rahul’s bat and had him caught at slip for 13. The catch was taken by Rahkeem Cornwall, who was one of two debutants – alongside wicketkeeper Jahmar Hamilton – for West Indies.
Soon after the first wicket, Cornwall was handed the ball with No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara still searching for his first run, and found purchase off the deck straight away. Pujara often came down the pitch to negate Cornwall’s flight and turn, but when the offspinner pitched one shorter and quicker 20 minutes before lunch, the extra bounce forced the batsman on the back foot and he ended up chipping to point for 6. The teams went into the break with India at 72 for 2 with No. 4 Kohli still new at the crease.
The post-lunch session began with four byes as Kohli missed a pull down the leg side. He then rolled his wrists to flick Roach through midwicket before repeating that in the next over off Cornwall. When Gabriel replaced Roach, he was driven straight back as Kohli moved into his 30s.
Agarwal, though, was being tested by Holder’s length balls, which went both ways. He was particularly troubled in his 40s, inside-edging two attempted drives to fine leg, reaching his third Test fifty in unconvincing fashion. On 53, Agarwal was adjudged caught behind off Roach, but he reviewed after consulting Kohli and that paid off. Replays showed daylight between bat and ball. But it wasn’t to last as Agarwal perished to Holder in the next over, edging one to Cornwall at first slip. The 69-run stand, though, had done enough to put India slightly ahead at that stage.
Kohli and No. 5 Rahane, the star of the first Test, then consolidated, with the latter surviving a few inside-edged chances that could have rolled on to his stumps. Kohli moved to 49 with a crisp cover drive off Gabriel and two balls later reached his 22nd Test fifty. Rahane, meanwhile, batted carefully in the hour before tea, happy to take the singles and avoid risky shots.
The final session began with India at 157 for 3. Roach dismissed Rahane with a dangling delivery outside off that he played at. Edging to the keeper, Rahane fell for 24, with India only at 164 for 4.
Kohli and Hanuma Vihari then looked to build a partnership, but it lasted only 38 runs as Kohli perished for 76. Holder had returned for a new spell and he went full outside off stump, tempting the India captain to drive. But the ball zipped off the surface, took a feather-edge and handed wicketkeeper Hamilton a second catch. At 202 for 5, Rishabh Pant joined Vihari, and he soon took on Roston Chase for the day’s first six over long-on.
Vihari wasn’t afraid to play his shots either, striking two driven fours off Gabriel in the 85th over. From the other end, Cornwall and Pant had a battle where the bowler came around the wicket trying to induce the sweep. When the new ball was taken, Roach troubled Vihari with balls that were searing inwards, but a tired Gabriel did not pose the same challenge. In the final over of the day, Vihari flicked two fours through midwicket off Roach to finish the day on 42, while Pant walked back on 27.
Despite Cornwall bowling 27 overs for only one wicket, West Indies would be pleased at the turn he was getting. Cornwall and Chase induced leading edges off nearly every batsman on the day, and the erratic extra bounce always kept the batsmen honest. For the hosts, though, a way past Vihari and Pant is key to taking the upper hand in a must-win Test match.