Ravichandran Ashwin completed a magnificent all-round performance with seven wickets to bowl India to a crushing victory by an innings and 92 runs on the fourth day of the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua on Sunday.
His haul of seven for 83 off 25 overs followed his third Test hundred – 113 – in India’s massive first innings total of 566 for eight declared at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Resuming their second innings following on at the overnight position of 21 for one, the West Indies were dismissed for 231 in another abject batting display, despite half-centuries by Marlon Samuels and Carlos Brathwaite and a ninth-wicket stand of 95 between Brathwaite and Devendra Bishoo (45).
This result was India’s largest margin of victory in a Test match outside of Asia.
“We were really eager to get going in this series,” said a delighted Indian captain Virat Kohli after the match.
“Everything came together nicely, from the batting performance to dismissing the West Indies twice. We went with three seamers because of the amount of grass on the wicket and it worked for us.”
Wicketless throughout the first innings and for the first nine overs of his second innings effort, Ashwin scythed through the heart of the home side’s batting in the afternoon session, reaping a five-wicket haul and then finishing off the match with the last two wickets just after tea to give India a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
He was fortunate to claim his first wicket, opening batsman Rajendra Chandrika adjudged caught at the wicket for a painstaking 31 in over three hours at the crease.
But there was no doubt about the demolition effected thereafter, including dismissing Samuels for his first half-century in 12 Test innings, as six wickets tumbled for 44 runs.
“Virat told me I needed to put in a good spell this afternoon and I’m glad I was able to deliver,” said Ashwin, reflecting on his superb performance with the ball.
“I wasn’t getting the right sort of rhythm yesterday but today was very different.”
Such was the speed of the collapse that India looked on course to complete the win well before the tea interval.
Lower-order resistance –
However Brathwaite and Bishoo offered resistance that was entertaining for the few home fans in the stands and more than a little irritating for Virat Kohli and his men who were kept waiting to celebrate a comprehensive win.
Brathwaite finished unbeaten on 51, his third half-century in as many Tests, but with just one wicket for 242 runs so far in his young career, his value as a frontline bowler remains highly questionable.
“We obviously need to bowl a bit better,” said a downcast West Indies captain Jason Holder in the aftermath of the heavy defeat.
“I’m not sure what we can expect from the pitch for the next Test in Jamaica. It’s been a bit flat of late but we’ll have to see what our options are when we get there.”
Apart from earning the West Indies a modicum of respect, the ninth-wicket pairing’s defiance also embarrassed the frontline batting which once again failed to cope with India’s potent combination of pace and spin.
Umesh Yadav got his team off to the perfect start in the morning, the fast bowler claiming the important wicket of Darren Bravo without any addition to the overnight score.
Samuels then made the most of a narrow escape when an appeal for a catch to the wicketkeeper off Mohammed Shami was turned down after consideration of the television replays.
Amid growing questions about his place in the side following 11 consecutive Test innings of scores lower than 20, the elegant right-hander stroked 11 fours in an even 50 before being bowled by Ashwin.
His demise came just after Jermaine Blackwood fell for his second duck of the match and Ashwin added the wickets of Roston Chase and captain Jason Holder to turn the match into a formality.
Wrist-spinner Amit Mishra accounted for Shane Dowrich in the midst of the rout before Brathwaite and Bishoo held up the victory celebrations.
Fittingly, it was left to Ashwin to claim the final two wickets in the space of three deliveries and make his team even heavier favourites going into the second Test beginning on Saturday in Jamaica.