Ashwin and Siraj keep India’s hopes alive in the second Test as the West Indies use a negative batting strategy.

As a defensive measure, pacer Mohammed Siraj made the old ball talk, while expert off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin unleashed a peach of a delivery. On a third day of the second Test here marred by rain, the West Indies stumbled their way to 229 for 5 against India.

On the third day, only 67 overs were feasible due to West Indies hitters seeking a draw and only scoring 143 runs. They are still 209 runs short of India’s staggering 438-run first inning total. The Indian bowlers didn’t let up, though, as Mohammed Siraj bowled a flawless in-cutter to dismiss Joshua Da Silva at the first sign of rain to conclude the day on an even keel on the flattest of tracks. Ravichandran Ashwin also bowled the “ball of the series” for India.

Before the No. 1 Test bowler in the world, Ashwin, took center stage with a miraculous event that put the Indian camp back in a good mood, Windies captain Kraigg Brathwaite (75 off 235 balls) used his extraordinary skills of concentration to delay the Indian attack on an uninteresting track. Since the batters on the home team were overly cautious and the pitch was lifeless, a draw seemed inevitable.

After putting in nearly 73 overs on a surface that is best described as “dead,” Ashwin (33-10, 61-1) bowled a delivery with enough flight and inward drift to get Kraigg Brathwaite to plant his front foot for the countless number of defensive prods. He was horrified as the ball, an off-spinner’s fantasy delivery, suddenly spun and struck the stumps between the bat and glove.

The one mistake Brathwaite made was moving his bat away from his pad rather than keeping it close. The ball was able to take full advantage of the gap as a result. When Brathwaite and an equally sluggish Jermaine Blackwood (20 off 92 balls) took their ultra-defensive “A” game to the fore in the post-lunch session, they added only 40 runs in 21 overs.

Indian bowlers were left high and dry after the first session was lost to rain, in large part because the track did not exhibit significant wear and tear. Defending wasn’t difficult, as evidenced by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s stats at that point (25-10-37-2) and the fact that he scarcely bowled any wicket-taking deliveries in the post-lunch session.

Infuriated moments were also experienced by Ravichandran Ashwin after he overflew a couple deliveries and was sent to the boundary. Jermaine Blackwood attempted to jab at a delivery that took the outside edge of his blade, but Jadeja had a gun-slip fielder in the form of Ajinkya Rahane, who clung onto a stunner diving to his left to send back Jermaine Blackwood.

The skipper, Rohit Sharma, continued to bowl with the old ball even though the new ball was available because Jaydev Unadkat (0/42 in 16 overs) had some success with reverse-swing but not much. However, Mohammed Siraj (20-6-48-1) was the one to bowl one with a shaky seam as the beaten side veered in after pitching to dismiss Joshua Da Silva.

Kirk McKenzie (32 off 57 balls), a fellow rookie, was Mukesh Kumar’s first wicket during the morning session as compensation for his nagging channel bowling. McKenzie edged Mukesh’s delivery to Ishan Kishan for a legal catch after he bowled a line that was either directly on the off stump or slightly outside of it. McKenzie, who had four boundaries and a six during his time at the crease, appeared to be in great shape.

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