Rishabh Pant stitched a crucial 146-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane and India ended the day with 308/4, trailing only by three runs with six wickets in hand.

 

It took just few matches for the promising wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant to bloom in international cricket and prove that the Indian selectors made the right call in including him in the ODI squad. He scored blistering 85 runs on Saturday, taking India to a commanding position to reach 308/4 at the end of the second day of the Test match against West Indies at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium here.

He stitched a crucial 146-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane and India ended the day trailing only by three runs with six wickets in hand.

Ahead of what will be a tough tour of Australia, Pant seems to have staked claim as the best option in the middle order, and perhaps a future replacement of MS Dhoni. Despite being the vice-captain of the team, the Damocles sword seemed to be hanging over Rahane as was evident when he was dropped in South Africa tour after a poor home season. He was expected to put up a performance in England but failed to convert his starts into big scores. Rahane must have gained a lot of confidence after scoring a clinical 75 runs.

Indian opening woes seems to have gotten some breather with the arrival of young Prithvi Shaw who smacked a quick 70 off 53 balls even as his senior teammate Umesh Yadav, grappling with form for some time now has yet again showed why he is always in contention when it comes to the best fast bowlers in the country. He scalped his career best 6/88.

Credit must be given to Yadav for following the same modus operandi, bowling stumps to stumps especially after his performance in the earlier session on Friday where he was struggling to find the right line and length, and leaking runs in the process. Umesh has often been overshadowed on important tours by the likes of Shami, Ishant, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah but this performance will surely cement his position further more in the Indian side.

At the start of the day, it seemed West Indies, with their overnight score of 295 for 7, will look to stretch their innings further but Umesh went past the last three wickets in a nick of half an hour to register his second five wicket haul. He became the first fast bowler to have scalped as many wickets since 1999 on Indian soil, and on a pitch where spinners had dominated so far.

The fast bowler’s first victim was Devendra Bishoo. Although, Roston Chase was able to reach the triple figure mark, his fourth for the West Indies, becoming the first batsman from Caribbean to have scored a century since 2011. His century was studded with eight boundaries and one six. Chase’s saga soon ended to a brilliant delivery by Umesh that seem to have swung inside and pass the inside edge. The visitor’s struggle soon ended after adding just 16 runs to the scoreline of their first innings.

It was time for Shaw’s show as the fans braced themselves for the Indian innings, and he didn’t disappoint any of those who seem to have put their faith in him. His high backlift at times may remind you of Sehwag or Lara, but he has got his own charm. His talent could well be gauged from the fact how he can put the almost same two deliveries to two different regions in the field. He sweeped one ball over mid-wicket region and another, playing inside-out over covers, both crossing the fence.

The 18-year-old played the upper cut for maximum off Shanon Gabriel, and the shot reminded many of Sachin and Sehwag. Resuming the final session at 173/4, after the dismissal of Pujara and Kohli, Rahane and Pant mixed caution with calculative aggression to steady the ship after the hoax middle-session scare. The right-left duo managed to see off the initial period before Pant broke the shackles with a few lusty blows to nearly outscore Rahane, en route his second Test fifty. Pant, the wicketkeeper-batsman, was especially harsh on left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican, whom he clobbered for two consecutive sixes. Rahane also brought up his 15th half century with a poke outside off in the same over from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo. With the addition of just four runs to India’s score, pacer Shannon Gabriel dealt the hosts another blow with the dismissal of Cheteshwar Pujara.

Thereafter, Kohli and Rahane stabilised the innings with a valuable 60-run third wicket stand before the India captain was trapped in front by his opposite number Jason Holder, who bowled an extended spell before heading to the tea interval.

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