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Laxman steers India to victory

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Rahul Dravid

A rare sight as Rahul Dravid is beaten by Fidel Edwards, but West Indies could not fully capitalise on this early breakthrough

India enjoyed a much-needed Test tonic by claiming an ultimately comfortable five-wicket win in the opener with West Indies at Delhi, their first triumph in seven attempts in the longest form.

Their previous victory was over the same opponents in June prior to two draws, which clinched that series in the Caribbean, and a 4-0 whitewash in England, which saw the hosts take over from India as the top-ranked Test team.

India’s win at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, the first of three Tests in this rubber, looked far from certain when the tourists took a first-innings lead of 95.

But after Test debutant and man of the match Ravichandran Ashwin’s six wickets limited West Indies to 180 yesterday, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman ensured the hosts drew first blood ahead of Monday’s second game at Kolkata.

Windies captain Darren Sammy conceded: “When you play against a top team you want to create an opportunity to win and we did that in this Test match, but we didn’t bat as we were supposed to in the second innings and it cost us.”

Resuming on 152 for two in pursuit of 276, Rahul Dravid went early but Tendulkar and Laxman made 76 and 58 not out respectively as victory came inside 37 overs today.

Tendulkar’s quest for a 100th international hundred goes on but his target of 67 of the 124 India required to reach that landmark today was stiff. It became unlikely when Laxman hit fours in each of the first three overs he faced.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said: “Sachin batted really well, there was a decent partnership between Sachin and Rahul. Later on with VVS Laxman it really made it (look) a bit easy because it was not a wicket where it was easy to score.”

Day four’s first over went for eight, with two leg-side deliveries from Sammy ending up at the fine-leg boundary via the pads and then the bat of Tendulkar.

Fidel Edwards then jagged one back to spectacularly bowl Dravid through the gate for 31, ending a stand worth 67 and giving the Windies the early wicket they craved.

Laxman got moving with two boundaries to fine-leg to bring the target below 100 and Tendulkar reached his 62nd Test half-century, in addition to 51 tons, with an off-side push for one off Edwards.

Boundaries came regularly and the fifty partnership arrived from 69 balls, a significantly faster scoring rate than when Dravid was alongside Tendulkar.

Tendulkar, who yesterday became the first to reach 15,000 Test runs, was denied another landmark when he missed an attempted pull off Devendra Bishoo and was trapped in front. His alliance with Laxman had been worth 61.

VVS Laxman

VVS Laxman holds firm. His 58 not out saw India to a five-wicket victory at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in this first Test of three

Laxman and Yuvraj Singh calmly took the score to 254 for four at lunch after which the former brought up his 55th Test fifty, in addition to 16 hundreds, with a leg-side single off Marlon Samuels.

Although Sammy bowled Yuvraj for 18 from around the wicket with the scores level, Laxman’s single past square-leg off Kraigg Brathwaite in the next over completed victory.