NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA), July 22: Virat Kohli continued his sublime form to ease to a 12th hundred and lead India to 302 for four on day one of the first Test against the West Indies here yesterday.
Kohli (143 batting) led from the front to lay a solid platform for his team with the other major contribution coming from opener Shikhar Dhawan (84).
The Indian captain, who also crossed the 3000-run mark in his 42nd Test, had the support of Ravichandran Ashwin (22 batting) at close of play as the two shared an unbeaten 66-run stand.
The away side had a rather quiet first session where it managed 72 for one in 27 overs before Kohli arrived at the crease and stepped up the tempo. By stumps, India had a decent run rate of 3.35 runs per over.
The pitch was flat and the West Indies bowling lacked depth to trouble the visitors who found it tough early on after Kohli opted to bat.
Starting at 65 after tea, Kohli put on 57 runs with Ajinkya Rahane (22) as the duo looked to build after losing both Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara (16) in the second session of play. Rahane was nearly dismissed cheaply, for 5 runs, as Shannon Gabriel (1-43) induced an edge that fell short of slips. But thereafter the vice-captain tightened up his game and didn�t give another chance until his eventual dismissal.
In the meantime, the duo kept the run-rate flowing, bringing up the 200-mark in the 61st over. Then, five overs later, they brought up their 50-partnership, coming off only 65 balls. Kohli was looking particularly good in this period, as cover drives and on-drives started booming off his blade.
Perhaps Carlos Brathwaite (0-46) was the only bowled who troubled him a bit, but even was not able to create a straightforward wicket-taking opportunity.
Just as they were looking good, Rahane was dismissed, a loose stroke off Devendra Bishoo (3-108) lobbing up and he was caught at midwicket. It was yet another loose dismissal for India, with only Murali Vijay (7) getting out to a good delivery earlier in the morning.
Thereafter, with 22 overs remaining in the day�s play, it was surprising to see Ashwin come out to bat ahead of Wriddhiman Saha.
But he did an immaculate job, including some silken drives down the ground, and the two batsmen stayed unbeaten until the end of play, bringing up the 300-mark in the 88th over. Kohli and Ashwin�s stand partnership rescued India from what looked like a disappointing first outing for the five top-order batsmen theory.
Earlier, Dhawan scored his third Test half-century and put on 105 runs with Kohli to help ease the pressure after lunch.
Pujara had done all the hard work in the first session, seeing off shine of the ball and looked to attack against the slower bowlers. But he was too eager to get going in this second session and threw away his hard work almost immediately as play began, playing too early against Bishoo and simply lobbing the ball to point for an easy catch.
The Indian skipper smacked another five boundaries in his fifty that he reached off just 75 balls. Bishoo was erratic in his line and length, not helped perhaps by the left-right combination at the crease and runs flowed easily.
Kohli and Dhawan brought up their 50-partnership in the 41st over and the 100-mark in the 53rd over, as the next fifty runs came off just 12 overs. Just as they looked comfortable enough to go into the tea break, the leg-spinner trapped Dhawan in front of the wicket and got the breakthrough West Indies wanted.
In the morning, India were subjected to some testing spells in the first session after they had won the toss and elected to bat. Left-arm Ravindra Jadeja was left out with the think tank opting to go in with three pacers instead. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami joined Ishant Sharma in the pace department, while Ashwin and Amit Mishra are the spin options.
The West Indies handed a debut to Roston Chase, picking seven full-time batsmen, and left out fast bowler Miguel Cummins.
India 1st innings: M Vijay c KC Brathwaite b Gabriel 7, S Dhawan lbw b Bishoo 84, CA Pujara c KC Brathwaite b Bishoo 16, V Kohli batting 143, A Rahane c Bravo b Bishoo 22, R Ashwin batting 22. Extras: (B 4, LB 2, NB 2) 8. Total: (4 wickets; 90 overs) 302. Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-74, 3-179, 4-236. Bowling: ST Gabriel 13-4-43-1, JO Holder 17-4-41-0, CR Brathwaite 15-3-46-0, RL Chase 17-0-54-0, D Bishoo 27-0-108-3, K Brathwaite 1-0-4-0. � PTI