For KL Rahul there is no such thing as in between. Either he doesn’t score, or gets a century. Ahead of the start of the Jamaica Test, Indian captain Virat Kohli had backed Rahul comprehensively, saying that he is capable of playing the long innings. Those were pretty confident words, considering how Rahul continued to floor the West Indies bowling attack en route a third Test century. His career-best 158 propelled India into the lead.
However, it has to be the West Indies who went back in the dressing room happier and content of the two sides. After a wicketless first session, where Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara soaked in an exciting spell of fast bowling by Shannon Gabriel and negotiated the early morning movement safely, the hosts showed better character in the next two. In the final period of play, West Indies were able to see the back of Rahul and danger-man Kohli even as India are ahead by 162 runs, finishing Day 2 at 358/5.
Though that doesn’t mean they are out of trouble. They will still require their best batting of the series to avoid a defeat. At the moment, the fire has only been seized and not extinguished. India has a firm Ajinkya Rahane standing the ground with an 87-ball 42. As India lost two quick wickets, Rahane began scoring at a better rate – all his six boundaries were risk free and his six off chase was one of his better sixes. He had missed out in Antigua but doesn’t look like giving it away here. Partnering him is a watchful Wriddhiman Saha on 17. India doesn’t have much batting after this. West Indies will need to avoid a repeat of today’s first session and hope for a better show with the bat.
India were once again strengthened by their top-order. Rahul continued his trend of going bust or going big. The morning session, as expected, was going to be one of the most decisive periods of play. West Indies were in need of a wicket but Rahul and Pujara’s 100-run partnership was enough to thwart those slight hopes.
The sun was out, and in very warm conditions, Gabriel and Jason Holder provided some excitement. Both of them garnered early movement, but neither troubled the batsmen. Gabriel was quick, and he was able to draw an edge off Pujara that fell about a meter short of second slip. Rahul was up to the task, again banking on his front-foot drives to pierce the gap and pocket the odd boundary. He seemed to have had a little break in concentration when he attempted a cut close to his body to a rising ball but was otherwise flawless.
Rahul reached his third Test match century by lofting Roston Chase over the long-on boundary. His pace picked up slightly in the second session as he lofted Devendra Bishoo for two sixes over deep cover. His progression from 100 to 150 despite being affected by cramps stood out. All his three centuries have come in when he’s replaced either Dhawan or Vijay, and the way he is progressing, it will get difficult to keep him out of the 11.
An immovable Pujara looked determined to make up his ‘Pujara-unlike’ dismissal in Antigua. Nothing that was outside the off was attempted at by the Saurashtra batsman. The more the bowlers sprayed outside off, the better he left, though he never looked unsettled – both his boundaries were well-timed. It was proper Test match batting.
A few deliveries went past Kohli’s bat and with the new ball due; Holder and Co. had the chance of stopping another partnership from growing. But West Indies waited for the final session to take the new ball and that allowed Kohli and Rahul to settle in. Kohli took some time, but a couple of boundaries towards the end of the session settled a few nerves. Come the final session and West Indies, to an extent, were able to arrest the slide. Even without much support from the new ball, Gabriel, their best bowler of the innings, drifted one on Rahul’s pads, to which the batsman offered a faint nick and was pouched by Shane Dowrich. Kohli wasn’t as fluid as he was in the first Test. He made a few errors in judgment to deliveries outside off and survived a stone-dead leg-before appeal to Gabriel. On reaching 44, he was out to a sharp catch at short-leg off Chase. His partner-in-crime from Antigua, R Ashwin was caught plumb off Bishoo as the ball pitched on his toe.
Brief Scores: India 358/5 (KL Rahul 158, Pujara 46; Chase 2/91) lead West Indies 192 all out by 162 runs.