Rahane half-century anchors India revival in first Test

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NORTH SOUND, Antigua and Barbuda, Aug 23, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Ajinkya Rahane’s
18th half-century anchored India’s revival to 203 for six on the opening day
of the first Test against the West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium
in Antigua on Thursday.

Reduced to 25 for three by opening bowlers Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel
after they were put in to bat, Rahane underlined his immense value to a star-
studded team with a gritty top score of 81 that helped lift the tourists to a
more competitive position by the end of a rain-interrupted day.

He received resolute support from opening batsman K.L. Rahul (44) in a
fourth-wicket stand of 68 and then featured in an even more productive
partnership with Hanuma Vihari (32), the pair putting on 82 for the fifth
wicket.

Rahane’s was the last wicket to fall in a stop-start final session, playing
on to Gabriel to end a near four-hour occupation of the crease in which he
stroked ten of 163 deliveries that he faced for four.

After the effective burst from Roach and Gabriel with the new ball which
threatened to demolish the entire Indian top-order batting, Rahul found the
redoubtable Rahane to be just the right partner in the effort to blunt the
early threat of the home side’s pace attack in helpful conditions.

It took the off-spin of Roston Chase to separate them halfway through the
afternoon session when Rahul, on 44, got a faint touch to an innocuous leg-
side delivery for wicketkeeper Shai Hope to take a neat catch.

It was Hope’s third of four catches in the innings so far in a role he
would not have expected overnight as a lingering ankle injury to regular
wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich ruled the first-choice gloveman out of the match.

Roach, who ended the day with figures of three for 34 off 17 overs, seized
the initiative for the West Indies at the start of play when he dismissed
Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara in the fifth over while Gabriel
accounted for the prized wicket of captain Virat Kohli (nine).

On a surface freshened by early morning rain and offering encouragement to
the new ball bowlers, Roach induced edges from both Agarwal and Pujara for
catches by Hope.

While Gabriel lacked Roach’s persistent accuracy, his extra pace continued
to challenge India’s top order and brought him the reward of Kohli’s wicket
when the champion batsman attempted to guide a lifting delivery through
backward-point only for debutant Shamarh Brooks to take a tumbling catch at
gully.

In adding the important wicket of Rahane before the end of the day,
Gabriel’s figures for the day showed two wickets for 49 runs off 15 overs.

Brooks, a 30-year-old middle-order batsman and occasional leg-spinner,
filled the vacancy in the 11 left by Dowrich’s unavailability.

West Indies were also required to draft in an additional replacement when
all-rounder Keemo Paul was ruled out on the eve of the match through injury
and his place was taken by Miguel Cummins.

After dominating the preceding the T20 and One-Day International series,
India are seeking to extend their winning streak in the Caribbean with a team
featuring three fast bowlers and one specialist spinner, Ravindra Jadeja
getting the job ahead of Ravi Ashwin.

That decision to omit Ashwin was described as “astonishing” by former
Indian captain and outstanding opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar, who is
involved in television coverage of the tour.

This Test also marks the start of the World Test Championship for both
teams.

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