Wickets tumble in Barbados
Bridgetown - India and West Indies both suffered woeful batting collapses as 13 wickets tumbled on the opening day of the second Test in Barbados on Tuesday.
India's batting crumbled on two separate occasions as they were bowled out for just 201 after tea, while West Indies lost three wickets of their own as they limped to 30-3 at stumps, setting the stage for an intriguing test.
The tourists lost their first four wickets for a meagre 38 runs as their top order struggled to come to grips with the extra bounce and pace at one of the Caribbean's most lethal pitches, then lost their last six wickets for 46 runs when the tail folded against spin.
But West Indies, already trailing 1-0 in the three-match series, failed to capitalise on their strong start, losing both openers and Darren Bravo to catches behind the stumps, despite having just hired a top sports psychologist to end their habit of losing wickets in bunches.
Only a century partnership from Vangipurappu Laxman and Suresh Raina saved India from an even lower total with the pair putting on 117 for the fifth wicket on a day when ball dominated over bat.
Laxman, a master of saving his team from precarious situations, withstood a ferocious onslaught from the West Indian pacemen for a beautifully compiled 85, reaching exactly 8 000 career runs in his 200th Test innings.
"The wicket was quite a challenge and the position we were in, losing four wickets for nothing, it definitely brought out the best in me," Laxman told a news conference.
"But I would like to convert that in to hundreds because I always regret doing all the hard work and not converting to hundreds."
Laxman struck 12 boundaries, comprising a mixture of fully bludgeoned drives and pulls, with some delightful, delicate touches.
He looked set for a deserved hundred before he was deceived by promising leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and caught by Adrian Barath at backward point, all but ending India's hopes of a bigger first innings total.
Raina made 53 but was less assured than Laxman. He also fell to Bishoo, caught in close, but was unhappy with the decision, dropping his bat and appearing reluctant to leave when the umpire's finger was raised.
Bishoo finished with three wickets, as did fast bowler Ravi Rampaul, who exposed India's frailty on lively pitches with two impressive spells in the morning session at one of the few international venues where India have never won a Test.
Exploiting the extra bounce and moisture in the deck, he claimed three early scalps, including two in three balls, to set the tone for the day, while Darren Sammy claimed the prized wicket of Rahul Dravid, whose second innings century in Jamaica ultimately decided last week's first Test.
India went to lunch at 44-4 but added 103 runs in the middle session without any further casualties, Laxman reaching his half-century off 75 deliveries and Raina passing fifty from 90 balls.
But West Indies polished off the tail in the afternoon session, only to get the wobbles when they began their own reply, losing Barath and Lendl Simmons in the space of six deliveries then Bravo on the penultimate ball of the day.
"I think it was a difficult wicket, especially before lunch ... but it eased down a bit and it was ideal for stroke play," Laxman said.
"We should have got about 250 to 300 runs, which would have been a very good score, but considering the position we were in before lunch, we have to be very happy, especially taking three wickets at the end there."