Harbhajan strikes it rich in Windies tour opener

Published: Saturday, April 6, 2002, 16:57 [IST]
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Georgetown: Spinner Harbhajan Singh grabbed four wickets in a warm-up game as India began their West Indies tour on a bright note here on Friday. The Indian off-spinner finished with four for 37 off 19 disciplined overs as the tourists dismissed Guyana Board President's XI for 118 on the opening day of a three- day match at the Everest ground. India survived a few anxious moments before reaching 73 for two at stumps in reply, with skipper Saurav Ganguly (40) and Sachin Tendulkar (three) at the crease. Deep Dasgupta was the first to go, beaten by a Travis Dowlin direct-hit to the striker's end from long-off while coming back for a third run. Fellow-opener Shiv Das also did not last long, contributing 20 before being caught by wicket-keeper Vishal Nagamotoo off seamer Damodar Dasrath. Ganguly was caught behind off a Rayon Thomas no ball when on 13, but then batted steadily with Tendulkar to deny the hosts further success. Harbhajan was not the only Indian bowler to strike it rich in the tour opener as pacemen Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan, and leg spinner Anil Kumble shared the other six wickets to keep pressure on the home team. With the top Guyanese players currently involved in the Busta Shield final against Jamaica in Kingston, the second-string team collapsed against the Indian pace-spin combination on a bouncy pitch after electing to bat. The tourists fielded a full-strength squad in their only warm-up game before the opening Test, starting at Bourda here on April 11. They gained valuable practice ahead of the Test series, enjoying bowling on a pitch which was different from the low and slow home tracks. Homchand Pooran (41) and opener Krishna Arjune (25) were the main run-getters in a dismal batting display by the hosts. Middle-order batsman Pooran struck three fours and one six off Kumble in his 143- minute knock, but received no support from the other end as the Indian bowlers kept striking at regular intervals. The hosts' problems began with the first ball of the match when they lost Andrew Gonsalves. The wicket had both pace and bounce and Srinath took one delivery for his first success in the Caribbean when he had Gonsalves caught behind. The Indian fast bowler was a member of the 1997 touring party, but had to return home without playing a game due to a shoulder injury. Left-arm seamer Zaheer matched his senior partner, having Narsingh Deonarine (four) caught by V V S Laxman at second slip in his opening over. Kumble also struck with his first ball when he had skipper Dowlin caught by Das at forward short-leg. Harbhajan then removed Arjune and Dasrath in his first three overs to reduce the hosts to 57 for five at lunch. The home team could never recover the early blows and were all out for a meagre total in just two sessions.

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