Opener Lokesh Rahul starred with the bat as he scored a career-best 158 to steer India to a big lead, on Day 2 of the second Test against West Indies, in Jamaica, on Sunday.
India were sitting pretty on 358 for five at stumps on the second day to stretch their lead to 162 runs. Ajinkya Rahane was unbeaten on 42 from 87 balls, while Wriddhiman Saha was not out on 17.
Rahul's third Test century drove India forward on the second day though they struggled to score runs freely as just 232 runs came in 88 overs bowled in the day.
Resuming on their overnight score of 126 for one, the two batsmen looked to play for time, as pacers Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder bowled a good testing spell.
Gabriel, in particular, tested both Rahul and Pujara, thrice inducing edges as they fell short of the waiting cordon. On three other occasions, he beat the batsmen with some extra pace and bounce.
Miguel Cummins also beat the batsmen with his line and length, getting a couple to rise awkwardly, but the edges didn’t come or didn't carry to the fielders.
Only 22 runs came in the first hour of play, with Pujara taking 35 deliveries to get off his overnight score of 18.
Finally, in the second hour of play, things started moving along as spinners Roston Chase and Devendra Bishoo were deployed. India's 150-mark came up in the 52nd over with Rahul and Pujara raising their 50-run partnership for the second wicket from 141 deliveries.
Rahul lofted off-spinner Roston Chase for a six over long-on to bring up his century in some style, off 182 balls. His previous two hundreds were scored in 2015, coming against Australia (Sydney) and Sri Lanka (Colombo).
In doing so, he notched up the highest score for an Indian opener playing his very first innings in the West Indies, beating Ajay Jadeja’s 97 (1996), Shikhar Dhawan’s 84 (2016) and Sunil Gavaskar’s 65 (1971).
At the other end, Pujara struck two boundaries to break the shackles and finally got his innings going on Day 2, as India went into the lunch break in consummate control of this match.
The 200-mark for India came up in the 70th over, and the Pujara-Rahul combine also brought up their 100-stand for the second wicket off 283 balls.
Even as the batsmen looked for runs, they had to take some risks, and in doing so Pujara was run-out after a direct throw from square leg found him short of the crease. It was a long stay at the crease, which didn’t even result in a half-century, an obvious source of disappointment as the batsman trudged off slowly.
Pujara showed a lot of patience, scoring 46 from 159 balls but was once guilty of throwing away a start.
Rahul suffered cramps thereafter, but kept going as Kohli joined him. The West Indies' decision to delay the new ball helped him settle down, and he was beaten only once in the first 20 deliveries that he had faced.
Part-time off-spinner Kraigg Brathwaite came in to bowl a few overs before the interval, much to everyone's surprise, and soon the runs began flowing again as India went past the 250-mark
in the 90th over, as the two batsmen put up 50 runs for the third wicket off 106 balls.
Rahul certainly was the hero of the day as he scored his third Test century on foreign soil with the help of 15 boundaries and three sixes in 303 balls. He had a partnership of 121 runs for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a dogged 46 off 159 balls with four boundaries. Rahul also had a 69 run stand with skipper Virat Kohli, who scored 44 off 90 balls. Kohli's
innings had four boundaries and a six.
By the time, Rahul was adjuedged caught behind down leg-side off Shanon Gabriel, he had put India in the driver's seat.
Kohli, who has been in sublime form, was dismissed just when he was looking to take on the spinners having hit a six and couple of fours off Devendra Bishoo's bowling.
It was spinner Roston Chase, who bowled an off-break which Kohli tried to turn it on the leg sideonly to offer a simple catch to Rajendra Chandrika at forward short leg.
Ravichandran Ashwin (3) was adjudged leg-before off a Bishoo delivery that hit the toe.
Rahane and Saha negotiated the remaining 12.5 overs adding 31 runs with minimum fuss as India enjoyed good day in the field.