Hard work does not always brings ample rewards is what the Indians learned on the second day of the third Test at the Kensington Oval which saw the West Indies placing themselves in a dominant position.
The Indian bowlers showed tremendous zeal and fire as they toiled hard for more than seven hours on an extended day yesterday but all they got in return was mere three wickets.
West Indies finished the day at 314 for four, a comfortable 212 runs ahead over India's first innings score of 102.
There were half-centuries by all the four frontline West Indian batsmen on show. Ramnaresh Sarwan struck 60 and Brian Lara 55 in their 119-run stand for the third wicket and that was followed by a 153-run unfinished partnership for the fifth wicket between skipper Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Hooper was batting on 70, thanks to a debatable decision by third umpire, and Chanderpaul on 75 when play was stopped midway through the 110th over due to bad light with eight more overs remaining in the day.
The only one to miss out was opener Chris Gayle who was out at his overnight score of 14 when Zaheer Khan trapped him leg before wicket in the second over of the day.
It was probably just the kind of start India wanted when West Indies resumed at their overnight 33 for one. Having been bowled out for a meagre total, the Indians kept searching for wickets and set a very attacking field. But despite the bowlers sticking to a tight line and length and being able to trouble the batsmen quite often, the breakthroughs eluded them.
Both Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan, who opened the proceedings for India in the morning, kept probing the area outside off-stump and did not offer anything to the batsmen.
Lara, in particular, was very tentative at the start as he played and missed a number of times and also struggled with his timing. But with time available in plenty, he did not show any haste and batted with a lot of patience.
He waited for the bad balls to score runs and settled down in good rhythm towards the latter half of his knock, driving Srinath for three boundaries in two overs.
Sarwan was much more confident and played fluent shots. He impressed with his good technique and hit a few elegant fours, none better than a flourishing off-drive against Zaheer Khan. He pulled the bowler in the same over for another boundary which brought up their 50-run partnership.
The two carried the West Indian total to 119 for two at lunch, having already overhauled the Indian score. Lara was much more positive in the second session and scored quickly to catch up with his partner who was the first to reach fifty.
It was left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra who raised the hopes of the Indians by dismissing both the batsmen. Nehra, who had been unimpressive in his earlier three spells in the day, looked an entirely different bowler when he was brought on towards the middle of the post-lunch session.
His first two deliveries to Lara were short pitched ones and third a swinging half-volley which the batsman tried to on-drive but only managed to offer a simple return catch. Lara batted for more than three hours and hit six fours in his 123-ball knock.
Nehra struck again in his next over to dismiss Sarwan whose drive off a wide delivery resulted in a good catch by Jaffer in the point region. Sarwan, who has 11 half-century from 20 Tests but no hundreds, batted for 213 minutes and hit ten fours.
With two quick wickets, the Indians looked to have found spring in their feet. They bowled and fielded with renewed
vigour and set up an attacking field. But Chanderpaul and Hooper did not make any mistake and
slowly built on their partnership. They had added 59 for the fifth wicket when the Indians very nearly got the prized wicket of Carl Hooper, the top-scorer in this series so far.
Nehra, bowling with a new ball, was straight driven by Chanderpaul but managed to get his fingers on the ball before it crashed into the non-striker's stumps with Hooper looking to be out of crease. But the third umpire found the television replays inconclusive and gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman. Hooper was only on 15 then and the total on 220.
Hooper went on to play an attacking knock especially after reaching late thirties. He greeted Harbhajan Singh with two successive boundaries when the off-spinner came on to bowl his last spell. Hooper then smashed Srinath through the covers for another four and on the next ball took two runs to reach his 28th fifty, second of the series.
Chanderpaul had already reached the milestone and the two continued to frustrate the Indians as play went into extra time to compensate for the slow over rate and the overs lost to rain on the opening day.
Frustration was writ large on the faces of the Indians and they prayed for an early end of the day. It was also evident when skipper Sourav Ganguly asked Harbhajan Singh to bowl way outside the leg-stump, a tactics they had so despised when England's left-arm spinner Ashley Giles used it against Sachin Tendulkar last year, to left-hander Chanderpaul.
However, umpire Asoka de Silva intervened quickly and warned the bowler and the skipper against using such negative tactics. Harbhajan Singh corrected himself and avoided it from degenerating into an ugly episode.PTI