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India tighten grip

Bharat Sundaresan

Posted: Jul 10, 2011 at 0125 hrs IST

Roseau, Dominica: A minor slip or even slight imbalance would cause them to plunge 20 feet into dire or even fatal consequences. The Windsor Park Stadium has a river flowing - with a really strong current - just a few yards from it on the far side. But even the aforementioned drastic prospect haven't deterred the two men - one who sports rangy dreadlocks and the other a frail, aging oldster - from standing for hours on the ledge of the fence bordering the river to catch the Test match action between India and the West Indies. For a better part of the first three days, there had been very little thanks to the constant rain and the host batsmen's struggle at the crease.

But the risk-taking would have seemed a tad futile for the two audacious cricket fanatics after what transpired in the 18th over of the home team's second innings on Saturday. Trailing by 143, the West Indies had already lost their openers cheaply once again, but the in-form Darren Bravo had looked in control from the start, middling most deliveries he faced and even dishing out a couple of flamboyant cover-driven fours. And with a better part of two days still left in the Test, the West Indies desperately required the left-hander to put a price on his wicket and continue in the same vein for as long as possible.

All it took for him to get flustered and lose focus was a ball from Harbhajan Singh that drifted in from around the wicket and turned viciously past his off-stump. And the shot that the young Bravo got out to off the very next delivery was one he, and the thousands who turned up at Windsor Park, would like to forget in a hurry. It was nothing more than a wild hoick that went only as far as Praveen Kumar at mid-off, to leave the West Indies tottering for the umpteenth time in the series with three wickets lost and still not 50 on the board.

Unlike the couple of daredevils on the river-edge, Adrian Barath has already got plenty of opportunities in the series to correct his follies with the bat, especially when it comes to his playing the away going delivery. But the diminutive Trinidadian found no answer for his struggles against the new-ball, edging a widish Praveen Kumar out-swinger to Virat Kohli at third slip. Fellow opener Kieran Powell too committed the exact same error he did in the first innings, only to be dismissed for another single-figure score on debut.

But the two unflappable fans remained steadfast and continued to stand on the ledge to support their team. For their bravado, they did get to witness a lion-hearted performance from speedster Fidel Edwards, who battled cramps, fatigue, the unrelenting humidity at Roseau and the lack of a new-ball partner manfully to end up with five wickets in India's first innings on Saturday morning. Though he has been criticised for his excessive use of the short-ball, three of Edwards's wickets came as a result of rising deliveries, including the prize scalp of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for 74.

And by the time the teams went in for the tea-break, another Edwards, the right-handed Kirk too had given the die-hard West Indian supporters something to cheer about with his maiden Test half-century.

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