Dhoni, Laxman shine, India in driver’s seat at Eden Gardens

Kolkata : Stylish batsman V.V.S Laxman and skipper M.S.Dhoni struck contrasting centuries as India piled up a mammoth total and then picked up two West Indies wickets to be in the driver’s seat on day two of the second cricket Test here Tuesday.

Laxman’s love affair with Eden Gardens continued as the Hyderabadi struck his fifth hundred at the venue and was still going strong at 176 (391 mins, 280 b, 12×4) when Dhoni declared the first innings closed 3.2 overs into the post-tea session at 631/7.

The young Indian bowlers took over from where their batsmen left off on a day when around 15,000 spectators came to watch the game played in overcast conditions. Pacer Umesh Yadav saw the back of Adrian Barath (1) off his second ball of the innings while offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin got rid of the other opener Kraige Brathwaite (17).

The Caribbeans were 34 for two when insufficient light forced the day’s play to be called off 52 minutes early with a dozen scheduled overs remaining. The visitors are now 597 runs behind India.

While Laxman was his sublime self, Dhoni pounded the hapless West Indies attack, striking characteristic sledge hammer blows to notch up 144 (181 mins, 175 b, 10×4, 5×6) — his first Test hundred in 21 months. Incidentally, the Ranchi boy’s previous century was also at the same venue against Graeme Smith-led South Africa.

Dhoni and Laxman were involved in a huge 224-run seventh wicket stand that came to an end shortly after tea when the wicketkeeper-batsman’s thick edge off pacer Kemar Roach was taken by Carlton Baugh behind the stumps.

Dhoni earlier had lady luck smiling on him twice as he was “caught” by Baugh twice off no balls delivered by Roach. He was on 13 and 16 then.

Resuming at 346/5 overnight, India reached 433/6 at lunch which was taken 19 minutes before scheduled time after the lightmeter showed insufficient light.

A tentative Yuvraj Singh (25; 25b, 5×4) was the only batsman to get out in the pre-lunch session when 87 runs came from the bat.

Laxman, beginning the day on 73, executed several artistic shots and reached his 17th hundred in 129 Test matches with a boundary past mid on, off West Indies skipper Darren Sammy. The landmark came in 219 minutes off 157 balls with nine boundaries – 75 minutes into the first session.

Laxman now has equalled fellow Hyderabadi Mohd. Azharuddin, who also has five hundreds at the venue. He is the highest run scorer at the venue with 1,217 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 110.63.

But before Laxman’s feat, the hosts lost their only wicket of the morning in the 10th over.

Yuvraj, who had begun the day with a boundary off pacer Kemar Roach’s first ball of the day, looked in lot of discomfort against the short ball as he repeatedly edged and even took a Phil Edwards delivery on his body.

The left hander’s unimpressive stay ended when he played across the line to Sammy and was out leg before. Laxman and Yuvraj’s partnership yielded 50 runs, the fifth half century or more stand of the innings.

Dhoni, who came in next, showed urgency, opening with a boundary off Sammy.

Dhoni and Laxman ruled the roost in in the post-lunch session when 180 runs came as the duo made mincemeat of the benign West Indies attack.

Dhoni’s century came off 147 deliveries after a 156-minute stint in the middle, inclusive of eight fours and two sixes. He got to the mark with a single off part-time spinner Kraigg Brathwaite 24 minutes before tea. This was Dhoni’s fifth hundred in 63 Tests.

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