India thwarted by last West Indian pair, first Test drawn
St. John's, Antigua, June 7 (UNI) In a humdinger of a match, a hamstrung Fidel Edwards and defiant Corey Collymore stood between India and victory and the final West Indian pair duely survived 19 balls and some torrid moments to force a draw in the first Test at the Antigua Recreation Centre here.
Indian bowlers took six wickets in the last session but the West Indies final pair survived the last three overs to finish the match on honours shared.
Chasing 392 to win West Indies finished on 298 for nine and the four-match series has both the sides levelled at 0-0.
Even though the match ended in a draw, the last day was never bereft of excitement for one ball.
The match swung between an Indian win and a draw from session to session. India grabbed three wickets, including that of Brian Lara in the first session to set up a likely win. However, West Indies didn't lose a single wicket in the second session. India came back strongly in the last session claiming six wickets, but the one that mattered the most eluded the Indians.
India began the last session in good fashion when Anil Kumble struck three overs after tea as he got the crucial wicket of Chris Gayle trapped in front of the wicket. Gayle, who was uncharacteristically cautious throughout his innings chose, to hit out at Kumble and managed a six also. But he was rapped on pads by Kumble and umpire Simon Taufell upheld his appeal. Gayle was out for 69 and his wicket triggered a collapse.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who was batting superbly for nearly two hours, also followed Gayle back when he edged Kumble to slips where Rahul Dravid completed the catch. Chanderpaul contributed 62 and West Indies were reeling at 202 for five at this stage. India needed last five wickets in 27 remaining overs.
Chanderpaul was West Indies' last specialist batsman and his departure provided fresh impetus to the Indian attack.
Seeing that odd ball was keeping low and there was some turn too for the spinners, Dravid tossed the ball to Virender Sehwag and the off-break bowler didn't disappoint his skipper.
He first had Dwayne Bravo caught behind and then accounted for the wicket of Denesh Ramdin to leave West Indies tottering at 226 for seven. Dravid took the second new ball as soon as it was available.
Munaf Patel rushing in from far end accounted for Ian Bradshaw who nicked an away going delivery to MS Dhoni.
Fidel Edwards, who didn't bowl in the second innings due to a hamstring pull, came to bat with runner.
Edwards was looking to block but Dave Mohammad at the other end seemed to be in strange hurry to play shots. Need of the hour was staying at the wicket and not runs. Mohammad hit a quick fifty but his propensity to play rather than leave proved to be his undoing. He played across to Kumble, missed the line and was clean bowled to leave the last pair to survive another three overs to salvage a draw.
Kumble bowled with a field of two forward short legs, two silly points two slips and a leg slip in quest of grabbing any chance that the batsmen offered. Edwards edged one to slips but the ball went in between Dhoni and Dravid. It was half a chance that went abegging.
The four-thousand-strong crowd was now cheering every ball that the batsmen survived. The charged up atmosphere proved a fitting goodbye to Antigua Recreation Centre that was hosting its last Test match.
The last pair survived two overs and it was left to S Sreesanth to bowl the last over and grab that one wicket for India. But that was not to be and the Test was drawn.
Earlier, Gayle and Chanderpaul steadied the West Indies innings in the second session of final day to raise hopes of saving the match. West Indies went to lunch precariously placed at 72 for three.
But Gayle and Chanderpaul ensured that there were no further losses in the next session.
Gayle continued to play his controlled knock and went to tea at 59 not out while Chanderpaul played some attacking shots to remain unbeaten on 47.
Chanderpaul gave a chance early on when immediately after lunch he edged a Sreesanth delivery that was closest that India came to getting wicket in the session.
The Indian skipper tried everything but the seamres lacked the zing they showed in the first session. VRV Singh wasn't in rhythm and bowled a few no balls. Munaf was alo warned by umpires not to run on the pitch in his follow through.
Kumble stopped run from one end but India failed to get wickets that they were looking in the second session so as to force victory.
Earlier, India claimed three West Indies wicket in the last 30 minutes before lunch to press for win in the last day of the first Test here. Anil Kumble broke the solid opening partnership of 67 and then Sreesanth claimed the vital wickets of man-in-form Ramnaresh Sarwan and Lara as West Indies went to Lunch at 72 for three.
While Gayle was subdued, Daren Ganga was more fluent at the other end and he consistently out-scored Gayle.
West Indies seemed to cruise safely to lunch when Anil Kumble struck the first blow. He tossed one up to him at middle and leg stump. Ganga tried to push at it, but he only managed an inside edge that was lapped up by Yuvraj Singh at short leg. Ganga departed for 36 and West Indies lost their first wicket at 67.
Sreesanth, who had struggled in the first innings, was ecstatic when he got rid of man in form Sarwan only after one run was added to West Indies total. Sarwan slashed at an away going delivery and Kumble at gully made no mistake.
The biggest success for India came one ball before lunch when Sreesanth trapped Lara leg before for nought. Umpire Asad Rauf took some time to decide and after a loud appeal decided that the ball was on its way to the stumps. West Indies were 72 for three. Gayle was batting on 28 of 94 balls.
India has never won a Test match in Antigua, all three that they played resulted in draw.