They say Day 3 is traditionally the best day for batting, but in Rajkot, Day 1 was. Or wait, even Day 2 was. Right from the start, the excitement at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Ground was palpable (alright, at least when compared to the attendance on the previous day). Why not? After all, it was a day that awaited another Virat Kohli hundred. And to make it even more perfect, one of their own, Ravindra Jadeja, unlike Cheteshwar Pujara, scored a hundred too – his maiden international ton.
For a large part of the morning session, even Rishabh Pant seemed like getting one, and in all honesty, he threw it away in a way that generally gets him there. India did what they do best at home – bat the opposition out of the contest, but wait, they do something else well too, which is to spin the opposition into an ugly web. By the end of a day peppered with milestones, India had not just posted a colossal 649, but also forced the tourists into submission at 94 for 6.
Records were waiting to happen and it seemed the Windies were not much in a mood to come in the way either. Barring a well-aimed two-over period by Sherman Lewis which had Rishabh Pant hopping in discomfort against the rising ball, there was no real spike in their bowling show from the opening day. Yes, the lengths went further up but with tramline trajectories, Kohli and Pant made them pay early. All it took was four deliveries in the morning for Pant to pick the first boundary of the day, and nine balls later, Kohli creamed one through the covers to bring up 3000 Test runs in India – the joint-fastest in terms of innings with Pujara. The tourists employed their opening bowlers in minuscule spells but the fresher bowlers failed to achieve much either as Pant raced to his second consecutive fifty, off 57 balls.
Against spinners, India’s new-found, flamboyant wicketkeeper-batsman, showcased his daredevilry, lifting offspinner Roston Chase and leggie Devendra Bishoo alike. His use of the feet was exemplary too, as he rarely failed to get to the pitch of the ball. His big swings helped the hits further. This was such a phase in play that Kohli was happy to be the pillion to Pant’s manic ride, scoring only two boundaries while the young Delhi lad connected five fours to go with three sixes.
It was that time again when a few more records were to be decorated in the famed Kohli closet. With a clip off his hips, the skipper raised his 24th Test ton, bettering former India opener Sunil Gavaskar’s 125 innings to get there. Moments later though, Pant (92) would fail to follow in the footsteps of his skipper as one of his many slog sweeps of the day finally got misconnected to be a simple catch to Bishoo. However, when a tough return chance came his way, the leggie fluffed it, and of whom? Kohli’s, with the batsman on 114.
The penchant for records didn’t change much after Lunch as Kohli’s off-drive off Lewis fetched him a four to clock his 1000th run this calendar year, a feat he’s achieved for the third year in a row. The West Indian morale had been sapped as much as their bodies on the field, and that is when a Kohli mishit happened with him trying to go over mid off. The lofted shot ended up at mid on and Bishoo redeemed himself, without having to wait for long since his drop earlier.
The mood had started to go down in Rajkot, as is the case always after Kohli’s wicket, but Jadeja identified the moment, as he had at the Oval, or in Dubai in the past few weeks. He set out to dance down the wicket at least once every over, against Chase and Bishoo, launching sixes regularly over long on. While fellow spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav failed to give him company, Umesh Yadav did and in the process, hit two sixes of his own. Jadeja had the opportunity to engage in another sword celebration, for the third time in less than a month, as he brought up his maiden Test ton with Mohammed Shami at the crease. Such was the euphoria that the duo missed their skipper’s signal for declaration. However, a ball later, Kohli caught their eye to insert the opposition in for a full final session of play.
As if the dead grass on the Rajkot surface had suddenly come alive, Shami made the ball swerve off the wicket. One such ball was to snaffle the first wicket when Kraigg Brathwaite left enough gap between his bat and pad to see an inswinging ball send the off stump cartwheeling. The next over, fellow opener Kieran Powell failed to account for Shami’s movement, getting far too across the stumps to be trapped plumb in front. Windies were 7 for 2. Eight balls into Ashwin’s introduction in the attack, and Shai Hope was done in by the one that goes straight through. Three down in no time and what followed next was further disaster.
It was as if the Windies didn’t trust their defences anymore that new batsman in, Sunil Ambris, stepped out twice to slog the offspinner for fours. The question was how long could one survive doing that. In a comical event of epic proportions, Shimron Hetmyer and Ambris ran towards the same end. However, centurion Jadeja wasn’t too entertained by the idea of a simple run-out. He waited until the last moment when Hetmyer was a few yards within reaching the non-striker’s end. The fielders around let out a huge shriek as an extremely adventurous Jadeja threw the ball onto the stumps to run him out. Kohli was shocked, so was Pujara and the others, imagining what if he had missed.
Jadeja then added another star to his already eventful day, coming in to bowl and picking a wicket off the first ball with Ambris edging off an extravagant drive to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip. On a surface that the Indian spinners are expected to feast on the touring party, Kuldeep too registered his name on the roll call, by luring Shane Dowrich into a drive, only to beat him with both flight and turn.
Roston Chase hung in there while Keemo Paul flung his bat at whatever came his way, and somehow the duo managed to keep it to six down on the day. The Windies are already staring at a follow-on, or rather the other way round. Day 2 was an embarrassment. For Day 3 to not be the same, the tourists will have to show us that side of their game that we haven’t seen today, and in fact even yesterday.
Brief Scores: India 649/9 decl. (Virat Kohli 139, Prithvi Shaw 134, Ravindra Jadeja 100*; Devendra Bishoo 4-217) lead Windies 94/6 (Roston Chase 27*; Mohammed Shami 2-11) by 555 runs.