Scorecard | Match pictures | Like only Sachin can | Farewell Sachin | One last time
It all went to plan on the opening day of Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th and last Test match. India’s spin arsenal came expectedly to the fore to dismiss the deplorably careless West Indies for 182 inside the tea interval. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha picked up five wickets. Offie R. Ashwin chipped in with three en route to becoming the fastest bowler to 100 scalps in the post-war era. Tendulkar then compiled a neat, unbeaten 38 and added 80 priceless runs with Cheteshwar Pujara (34*), as India ended day one with a deficit of 25 runs, eight wickets intact.
Notwithstanding the 73 most-eagerly-followed deliveries that Tendulkar faced, the major action on day one was condensed into a 40-minute span late in the post-lunch session, one during which the visitors lost seven wickets for 42 runs in just 15 overs. There was turn and bounce for the spinners no doubt, but the West Indians’ dire capitulation had more to do with abysmal shot selection: ugly hoicks, clueless feet, the constant clinging to hope rather than conviction.
None of this discomfort was apparent when Shikhar Dhawan (33) and Murali Vijay (43) got India’s innings underway with marked rapidity, an aggregate of 15 boundaries peppering India’s first 77 runs. Both the openers were dismissed by off-spinner Shane Shillingford in the same over, the second ousting, Vijay’s, causing the crowd to erupt like Etna in its prime. Tendulkar arrived to a guard of honour by the West Indian players and the umpires. He overcame his initial nervousness to play an array of authoritative strokes, the pick being a corrosive straight drive off Darren Sammy. Pujara too was unaffected by the purported guiles in the wicket and the pair whittled away at the arrears.
What may be of slightly more interest to the cricket's incorrigible devotees is that Tendulkar will take guard on Thursday morning 62 away from (dare we say it!) three figures.
It had appeared to be a completely different pitch when MS Dhoni elected to field. Seamers Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar gained early swing and carry, while Ashwin found immediate turn when he was brought on as early as in the 13th over. This was all very nice, considering that there was the threat of the constant drone of Tendulkar’s swan song drowning out all other essentialities that go into the making of a Test match.
One such necessary formality was the toss at which Tendulkar was expected to make an appearance. He didn’t, but that other overbearing figure in Indian cricket, N. Srinivasan, did, watching over benevolently as Dhoni delayed Tendulkar’s inevitable last walk to the batting crease. Shami validated Dhoni’s decision. On a springy, damp pitch, he softened Chris Gayle with a blow to the leg and dismissed him next ball: a short delivery squaring up the giant and flying to gully off the edge. Shami followed this up by inducing another edge – this time from Darren Bravo – only for the ‘catch’ to land tantalizingly short of Ashwin at first slip.
A few overs later the ball did travel all the way to Ashwin – thanks to Bhuvneshwar’s swing and Kieron Powell’s languid nonchalance – but the Chennai lad dropped it. Bravo celebrated surviving two close leg-before appeals against Bhuvneshwar by tonking Ashwin for six and four. But the offie, now operating from round the wicket, let loose a picture-perfect revolver to dismiss Bravo, the delivery rising on the batsman and fizzing off the edge to Dhoni.
India had to wait until after lunch for the third scalp, which materialized when Ojha (called into service immediately on resumption) spun one sharply into Powell when he was just two away from a half-century. Powell could only clumsily bat-pad to Shikhar Dhawan at short-leg, and another wait ensued, this time for ten absorbing overs, before Ojha returned to terminate Marlon Samuels.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, meanwhile, had walked in almost unannounced into his 150 Test match. He had begun in a most atypical manner, lofting and sweeping Ojha for six and four respectively and guiding Bhuvneshwar to the third man fence. A hasty approach, however, led to an equally hasty exit and a collapse of near-epic proportions. The West Indies plummeted from 140/3 to 182 all out in a trice, a fall triggered by Bhuvneshwar's wicket of the one with the crab stance.
Ashwin took Narsingh Deonarine and Sammy (to a hugely lamentable slog) in the same over to become the fastest post-war cricketer to 100 Test wickets, in his 18th match. The rest discovered Ojha to be unplayable in turning conditions. The left-arm spinner managed to pick up five. The West Indies managed to turn yet another half-decent start into a recipe for disaster.