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Early control

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

Early control

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KOLKATA– Maestro Rahul Dravid’s 36th Test century put India in early control of the second Test yesterday, as West Indies’ bowlers struggled to contain the hosts’ batting juggernaut.
The right-hander hit a classic 119 as India, opting to bat first at Eden Gardens, finished the day on 346 for five.
While Dravid flourished, legendary teammate Sachin Tendular failed in his pursuit of 100 international hundreds, falling well short when he was out for 38.
“It obviously feels that I am in some good form . . .  I have hit a good patch. I am in a good space with my game so I am really trying to make it count, trying to make it last as long as I can,” Dravid told reporters.
“I have been through tough times so I know very well when things are going well, you have to make the most of it . . . I am just trying to do that.”
The classy V.V.S. Laxman, another cog in India’s imposing batting line-up, was nearing his 17th century at the close, finishing unbeaten on 73.
Left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir got a measured 65 while partner Virender Sehwag slammed a typically breezy 38.
With India chasing a 2-0 lead in the three-match series, Dravid took centre stage, stroking nine fours and two sixes in an innings spanning 207 balls in just under five hours at the crease.
He anchored a 140-run, fourth-wicket stand with Laxman which helped India mould the foundation for a massive total.
Dravid also shared two half-century partnerships – 83 for the second wicket with Gambhir and 56 for the third wicket with Tendulkar.
For the veteran, it was his fifth hundred of the calendar year and he always seemed poised for a big innings from the outset, galloping to 19 off 17 balls, quite unlike his usual watchful starts.
Thereafter, he played a finely balanced innings, with some spectacular cover drives and dispatched Devendra Bishoo and Marlon Samuels for sixes down the ground.
He got to the three-figure mark – his fourth at the iconic ground – 79 minutes into the post tea session by stylishly glancing pacer Kemar Roach to the square-leg fence. The mark was achieved in 254 minutes, off 179 balls.
Part-time spinner Kraigg Brathwaite finally claimed Dravid to grab his maiden Test wicket in the penultimate over of the day, when the batsman played on attempting a forcing off-side stroke.
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson, whose side lost the first Test, was confident that the visitors could still bounce back today.
“It was a tough day for us because there was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers,” Gibson said. “Both teams are capable of collapsing as we saw in Delhi (last Test) and we are hoping something like that happens here too.”
Laxman counted five fours and has so far faced 116 balls and batted 143 minutes.
Earlier, Sehwag gave India a rollicking start, as he tore into the Windies attack, his 38 coming form 33 balls and including eight sweetly timed fours.
He added 66 from 73 balls with Gambhir who faced 103 balls and hit eight fours.
Sehwag was the only casualty in the morning when he pulled captain and medium pacer Darren Sammy to Adrian Barath at short midwicket.
 Gambhir also enjoyed himself, with a lofted stroke off Bishoo.
The Delhi left-hander, who has not scored a hundred in last 12 Tests, completed his 17th half-century in 43 Tests, but fell in the post-lunch session to pacer Fidel Edwards, who is playing his 50th Test.
Tendulkar walked out to a rousing reception after Gambhir’s departure, but spent just 75 minutes in the middle failing to achieve the precious milestone.
The batting genius, who earlier survived a strong leg-before appeal off Bishoo while on 25, pulled a rank Bishoo long hop to Samuels at short midwicket.
West Indies snatched a bonus wicket near the close when Roach got nightwatchman Ishant Sharma to glove a short ball to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh, to depart for a first-ball “duck”. (CMC)