As Ben Stokes created history for England with a chanceless hundred at Leeds, India were dismantling West Indies for their biggest win overseas in terms of runs. Virat Kohli broke a slew of records even as he missed out on a century in Antigua; he now has more away victories than any other Indian captain.
With the win, Kohli also equalled Mahendra Singh’s Dhoni’s all-time win record and has the chance of becoming the most successful Indian Test captain at Jamaica later this week. Such was the ease with which India cruised to victory with their commanding second innings display that the West Indies steadily became sloppier as the match progressed and it reflected in their poor body language when India were batting.
Fifteen years ago, they had chased down an improbable 418 for victory but there was no miracle this time around. The Indian bowlers, led by the brilliant Jasprit Bumrah didn’t give them a sniff.
The batsmen folded like a pack of cards and had to thank Kemar Roach and Miguel Cummins’s 50-run stand for the 11th wicket for saving them from greater embarrassment.
There were positives galore for India, who now have 60 Test Championship points and look good to double that. Here’s a look at them:
Rahane return to form
The runs had dried up from Ajinkya Rahane’s coffers. His last century came a little over two years ago. There were other middle-order batsmen gunning for his place and Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri wouldn’t have had too many questions had they even dropped their vice-captain for this match.
He only had a scratchy half-century in the warm-up match to show. But to the team management’s credit, they persisted with Rahane, who made the biggest gains for India at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium. After bailing out India with a sturdy 81 in the first innings, he followed that up with a patient century – his tenth – in the second essay. Despite India having a healthy lead, Rahane put a price on his wicket and calmly went about his task.
After Kohli departed, he built another century stand, this time with Hanuma Vihari to put the match beyond the West Indies. While the West Indies bowlers didn’t pose much of a challenge, India had Rahane to thank for negotiating tricky match situations in both innings.
The relief of ending a rut was written all over the Mumbai batsman’s face in the post-match presentation as he collected the Player of the Match award. Rahane also thanked the people who stuck by him over the course of the last 24 months, a phase which his India place being questioned multiple times. Rahane’s classy drives on the off-side were back with his confidence, and so was his appetite for runs.
Vihari’s assured presence
In Rahane, we witnessed a batsman determined to make his opportunity count; he had a lot riding on this Test match. Vihari’s case was a lot different. The Andhra batsman had already made an impact in England and Australia. His challenge here was to show why he is such a prolific run-getter in domestic cricket.
And he did not disappoint. Even in the first innings, he looked good for his 32 before being dismissed. With Rahane holding fort at one end, Vihari effortlessly found the boundary ropes to get the scoreboard ticking, feasting on the tired West Indian bowlers. Armed with a compact defence, the 25-year-old stretched India’s lead but was unfortunate to miss out on his first international hundred while trying to up the ante.
The short ball didn’t really rattle him and he stitched handy partnerships with Rahane in both innings. With Kohli favouring his part-time off-spin, Vihari is in for the long haul with such displays and effectively shut the door on Rohit Sharma to make a comeback in red-ball cricket in the near future.
Most certainly, he is one of India’s finds over the past year.
In just 11 Test matches, Bumrah has managed to go where no Asian bowler has in the game’s history. Wasim Akram, Muttiah Muralitharan, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble – for the truckload of the wickets they have their in their respective careers, could not get five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England, Australia and West Indies. That Bumrah has managed to achieve that in just his first tours to these respective countries makes his achievements all the more remarkable.
The sky is the limit for Bumrah, against whom the West Indies batsmen had no answer. Has he even had a bad match in white flannels? He managed to get only a solitary wicket in the first innings and was far from his best. It didn’t take long for him to make inroads in the second. The floodgates opened with opener Kraigg Brathwaite nicking it to Rishabh Pant. From thereon, the West Indies batsmen threw in the towel. They had little idea where his deliveries were going to land. Even the broadcasters tried analysing his wrist position with balls coming in and going away.
It’s easier to sit down and dissect Bumrah with the help of slow-motion replays. It is quite another challenge to face his thunderbolts dipping away at the last second. Four of his five dismissals were bowled; the stumps took quite a beating on Sunday. It was the one going away that Windies truly struggled with.
Bumrah finished with extraordinary figures of 8-3-7-5 in the only spell he bowled. The damage was done and Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami were relegated to playing the supporting cast to yet another scintillating Bumrah show.
Against a motivated India, West Indies are on the ropes and will need to do very well to get their first points on the board in the Championship table in Jamaica.