The narrative, ahead of day five of the Jamaica Test, was that India would need no more than two sessions to pick the remaining six West Indies wickets and thereby go 0-2 up in the four-Test series. Only 15.5 overs of play was possible on the fourth day, notwithstanding which India had taken four West Indian wickets for just 48 runs. A second consecutive innings defeat seemed likely for the hosts, who had to bat a possible 98 overs at the start of day five and wipe away a deficit of 256. In the end, however, day five at the Sabina Park proved to be the best the West Indies have had so far in the ongoing series against Virat Kohli‘s men.
Engineered by Roston Chase, who struck his maiden Test century (a 269-ball 137*) and also became the first West Indian since Sir Garfield Sobers (in 1966) to score a century and pick five wickets in the same Test, West Indies handed India a major upset by denying them something which appeared to be ‘theirs’. Chase played ‘the’ innings to help West Indies save the Jamaica Test and keep the four-Test series alive, but he was magnificently supported by Jermaine Blackwood (63), Shane Dowrich (74) and captain Jason Holder’s (64) priceless and attractive knocks, and the big partnerships (93 between Blackwood and Chase, 143 between Chase and Dowrich and an unbeaten 103* between Chase and Holder) each one of them had with the centurion. Quite astonishingly, a team which had not even scored more than 250 runs on three occasions before the final day in Jamaica, went on to pile on 340 runs for the loss of just two wickets – one (Dowrich) of which was given out wrongly as LBW as well – in 88.1 overs.
From India’s perspective, which factors contributed to their inability to win the Jamaica Test?
Let us discuss.
Jamaica Test, Day Five
Team India and everyone who staunchly believed that the second West Indies v India Test was heading in only one direction, have been reminded about the innate aspect of sports in general and not just cricket: in a battle between two teams, one’s superiority over the other counts for nothing. And, the calendar year 2016 too, continues to remind us about this notion, which has been illustrated so well by the likes of Atletico Madrid (in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League), Leicester City (in the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League) and the West Indies (ICC World Twenty20 2016) themselves reigning supreme over teams which are considered vastly superior to them.
Kohli, ever since he was made India’s Test captain, has often spoken about ruthless mentality, giving what his team get and ultimately, trying to win every Test they play. On day five at the Sabina Park, however, India lacked intensity to start off with and were not quite the ‘ruthless’ side we have come to expect. Mohammed Shami and Amit Mishra, who began proceedings for India, did not bowl to potential and were more intent on “putting the ball on a spot”, expecting the pitch to do the business for them. The West Indies batsmen, Blackwood and Chase, made this duo pay for their failures to hit the right line and length, as the Blackwood-Chase pair accrued 40 runs in the first 4.1 overs and pushed India firmly onto the back foot. The Blackwood-Chase partnership made India feel unsettled for the first time in the series. The first half-hour on day five was also one of the very few phases during which the hosts have outclassed India so far in this series. Holder’s spell in the first session on day three – when he had Ajinkya Rahane in all kinds of trouble and was quite unfortunate to not dismiss the Mumbai batsman, but scalped Wriddhiman Saha with an incisive inswinger, a delivery which is not really his forte, just before lunch – also counts towards the encouraging periods West Indies have had.
With Blackwood and Chase scoring runs rather quickly and bringing the deficit down at quite an alarming rate, Kohli had to decide between keeping fielders in catching positions and looking for wickets or spreading the field out and allowing the pressure to build by bowling dot balls. However, what he had to contend with was a slight drop in standards of the Indian bowlers, after they had delivered in the three innings prior to the final day of the Jamaica Test. The prevalent conditions did not help the ball swing in the air or off the surface, and the Indian bowlers had to work hard to even test the transformed West Indies batsmen. The start made by India, though, on day five, did contribute to how the rest of the day panned out, as the West Indies batsmen kept growing in confidence and the Indians became infuriated, letting their shoulders drop.
The Indian bowlers were not at their lethal best, but they received very little assistance from the pitch too. We can safely say that the Sabina Park pitch flattened out too much for India’s liking, on day five. Bounce and turn were available to the Indian spinners, but Ravichandran Ashwin and Mishra were not creating the desired impact on the batsmen. From the fast bowlers’ perspective, very little reverse swing was on offer and the new ball just went straight through after pitching, making the batsmen’s lives much easier. Again, Blackwood, Chase, Dowrich, and Holder batted well and they are not being discredited for their mature innings, which could also help them come of age as Test players, but there was a marked difference in how the pitch played on day three and how it played yesterday.
Another one of the marquee aspects of day five of the Jamaica Test was how the West Indies batsmen played with the fields set by Kohli. As aforementioned, the free flow of runs early in the morning helped the West Indies alleviate the deficit and thereby force India to look at it as a factor: at the start of the day, Kohli will have only thought about his bowlers needing to produce six wicket-taking deliveries. But, once the runs started coming in fours, fives, sixes, and sometimes even more, every over, the possibility of India being made to bat again and the consequent reduction in their winning chances, did start to creep into Kohli’s thinking.
The Indian skipper juggled with different field sets, but Chase and company manipulated the fields set by Kohli quite astutely. When they had more men around the bat to contend with, the West Indies batsmen did not think twice about going over the top; and, on the flip side, when Kohli spread the field out and had a long-on, a long-off, a deep mid-wicket, or a deep square-leg in place, the West Indies batsmen had the clarity in thought to milk the Indian bowlers for singles. So, what we had not seen on the eight previous days of Test cricket between West Indies and India, was on show on day five in Jamaica.
India will be disappointed with how they let a great chance to go 0-2 up fizzle out. Thanks to inclement weather conditions, time did become a factor in the result of the Jamaica Test, though we cannot deprive West Indies the credit for slugging it out in the middle and proving to themselves and India that they are capable of the feats they achieved collectively and individually on the final day. We will have to wait and see if the final day of the Jamaica Test proves to be a watershed – which will only make the series more interesting, make no bones about it – but the West Indies have a lot of positives, especially on the batting front, to come out of the second innings in Jamaica. India, on the other hand, might suddenly feel the need to change a personnel or two, as they did struggle to pick wickets once the pitch had flattened out considerably. Because, let us face it, another flat pitch could well be dished out in Gros Islet, the venue for the third Test between West Indies and India.