Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina scored attractive half-centuries to lead a bold counter-attack for India, guiding them to 219 for six in their first innings at tea in the first Test against West Indies on Monday.
Raina was unbeaten on 70 and Harbhajan was not out on 67 at the break, adding 134 – unbroken – for the seventh wicket, and reviving India after they slumped to 85 for six in the first 15 minutes following the lunch interval on the first day at Sabina Park.
Harbhajan reached his 50 from 45 balls, when he patted a delivery from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo into the covers for a single, and seemed to inspire Raina with his confident strokeplay.
Left-hander Raina, whose form appeared to have deserted him during the preceding one-day series when he was leading India, reached 50 in 76 deliveries, arrived at the landmark in grand style with successive straight-driven boundaries off West Indies captain Darren Sammy.
The pair brought India back into the match, after Bishoo seemed to put West Indies in charge with two wickets in successive overs.
Rahul Dravid made 40 before he edged a loose drive to Sammy at slip off Bishoo, who also had India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni caught at second slip for a two-ball duck.
But Harbhajan quickly got into stride, lofting Bishoo straight for his first boundary, before striking the first two deliveries of the spinner’s next over for two more boundaries.
Raina seemed to be inspired, and he too, joined in the fun, with two well-executed drives through the off-side for boundaries.
Next over, Harbhajan spoiled Rampaul’s figures with three boundaries, a hook to deep fine leg, a leg-glance in the same area, and a searing drive through extra cover and mid-off.
The runs continued to flow up to tea with the two batsmen matching each other stroke for stroke, Harbhajan swinging Bishoo for the first six of the match over long-on in the final over before the break.
Bishoo has been the most successful West Indies bowler with three for 75 from 11 overs, and Rampaul took two for 44 from 14 overs.
Before lunch, India had failed to justify their decision to bat, limping to 69 for four at lunch.
The visitors were setback early, when Murali Vijay was caught at backward point for eight slicing a drive off Rampaul, who also bowled debutant left-hander Abhinav Mukund off the inside edge for 11.
V.V.S. Laxman joined fellow veteran Dravid, and stemmed the fall of wickets for close to an hour. But he was caught at slip for 12 off the first delivery from Bishoo, edging a loose drive, and leaving India 64 for three.
The rot set in, when Virat Kohli was caught behind for four, playing defensively forward to Fidel Edwards in the final over before the interval.
The Indians included three Test newcomers in Mukund, Kohli, and fast-medium bowler Praveen Kumar.
West Indies included Edwards, who will be playing his first Test in close to two years, after he was sidelined with a career-threatening back injury.