Seldom are Test matches exciting these days, and when one of the teams participating is the West Indies, action is guaranteed. Against India at the Sabina Park in Kingston, playing only his second Test, Roston Chase became the third West Indian to score a hundred and pick up a five-wicket haul in the same match, but more importantly, shepherded one of West Indies’ most miraculous escapes in recent memory.
With six wickets to get in three sessions, India started favourites to wind things up in a session or two at max. But at the other end, standing between India and their plans was Chase. West Indies, from a point where they were trailing by 256 runs, dug deep, resisted anything and everything India threw at them, lost only two wickets, took the lead and denied India a 2-0 lead in the series. For the first time since 1998, Jamaica has produced a drawn game, and it needed a special innings indeed – Chase’s unbeaten 137 in this case – to change that trivia.
With 10 overs left, and West Indies having taken a lead of 84 runs, Virat Kohli and Jason Holder shook hands and decided to settle for a draw. Chase went back to the dressing room amid pomp, applauds and numerous of pats on his back, including that of the Indian captain. Rain had helped West Indies a day before. Today, they helped themselves.
In 88.1 overs, India gave away 340 runs with two wickets to show. They tried, at times even to mentally disintegrate the opposition. Kohli and Chase exchanged words and Amit Mishra, out of frustration, once threw the ball back to the keeper. India aren’t used to something as resilient as this from their opponents in this series. For a change, West Indies were willing to put up a fight. A fight that paid off rather handsomely.
Chase’s alliances, first a 93-run stand with Jermaine Blackwood and then two century associations with Shane Dowrich and Holder was detrimental in making India wait. He showed intent in support of Blackwood – who became the first player after Shivnarine Chanderpaul from 2014 to hit twin fifties in the match – and Dowrich, who contributed with a gritty knock of 74.
Chase did everything right. When Ishant pitched it wide, he cut him fiercely. When Shami over pitched, he drove him down. When Umesh banged it in, he pulled him. He attacked Mishra and looked in control while facing R Ashwin. Of course, he had partners to thank at the other end, but his poise simply stood out. Such was his composure that everyone he batted with got a fifty, Holder included. In fact, it was only first time in West Indies’ history that their players at No. 5, 6, 7 and 8 had hit half-centuries in the same innings. It was truly a heart-warming effort.
West Indies must have really hit the nets hard overnight. On a bright and sunny day, Blackwood and Chase allowed them to score 167 before lunch. Many expected them to probably just hang in, but the unit displayed defiance. West Indies’ frailty to the short ball was a concern a day earlier and in the first innings. This time though, the batsmen looked at ease barring a few balls that climbed up.
It was almost as if Blackwood took off from where he’d left in the first innings. No pacer was spared of his meaty hits. Even West Indies’ chief tormentor Ashwin wasn’t spared. In his first over, Blackwood danced down and drilled a ball past Ashwin for a boundary almost inflicting a feeling of amazement in the Indian camp. A flat six followed. Ashwin and Kohli almost couldn’t believe it.