West Indies have been lucky to enter the third Test with the
series level and Brian Lara would have wanted a solid start after
he chose to bat on winning his first toss of the series. Given
India.s ominous batting form, it was imperative that West Indies
score big in the first innings to ensure that they didn.t spend
the rest of the match chasing India. And with Daren Ganga in
indifferent form, the responsibility fell on Chris Gayle to
provide the momentum.
Gayle was circumspect at the start. He played and missed a bit,
left a lot of balls outside off stump, and because the bowlers
were extracting some swing, he played his shots very late. Only
11 runs came off the first seven overs, which, by Gayle.s
standards, is snail.s pace.
The first signs of aggression came against Sreesanth in the eight
over. Gayle stood his ground and biffed a four past mid-on and, a
ball later, launched one over the long-on fence. Gayle then went
into another lull against the fast bowlers save a savage cut over
point, also off Sreesanth. Once the spinners came on, the sluice
gates opened. Gayle targeted Harbhajan Singh, who got almost no
turn from the first-day pitch. With brute force, Gayle hammered
blow after blow to, and over, the long-on and long-off fence. So
savage was this attack that Harbhajan Singh conceded 42 runs off
his first six overs.
Having gained momentum, Gayle was much more positive when Munaf
Patel was reintroduced into the attack. He chanced his arm and
cashed in with fours through slips and also creamed meaty drives
through the cover region. Gayle.s positive attitude took away the
pressure from Ganga, who buckled down and ground out his runs.
West Indies had reached 143 before an error in judgement sent
Gayle.s off stump cart-wheeling but, by then, he had given his
team a perfect start to secure a strong advantage.
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