Laxman digs in as India lead by 240

Bridgetown, Barbados, CMC – VVS Laxman struck his second half-century of the match and was marching towards his 17 Test century as India continued to grind out a big lead on the fourth day of the Second Digicel Test on Friday.

At the close, the visitors were comfortably placed at 229 for three, a lead of 240 runs with the final day looming on Saturday at Kensington Oval. Laxman was unbeaten on 72 to follow up his first innings 85, and was involved in an unbroken 75-run, fourth wicket stand with Virat Kohli who was undefeated on 26 at the close.

Speedster Fidel Edwards bowled aggressively but was inconsistent, and finished with two for 58 to be the Windies’ best bowler. Resuming the day on 23 without loss, India patiently built on their 11-run first innings lead, as Rahul Dravid (55) chipped in with a half-century and opener Abhinav Mukund got 48.

Following another delayed start because of rain, West Indies struck early when seamer Ravi Rampaul removed Murali Vijay for three, the right-hander nicking one behind to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh as he pushed forward tentatively in the day’s third over. That was the hosts’ only success in just over an hour’s play possible in the morning session as Dravid and Mukund consolidated.

The right-handed Dravid was lucky to escape when he was nine with the score on 47 for one. He clipped captain Darren Sammy to mid-wicket where Adrian Barath appeared to take a low catch, sparking premature celebrations. Replays, however, proved inconclusive and Dravid remained.

He pressed on, facing 171 balls in a typically patient stubborn innings that yielded three fours, featuring in successive half-century stands with Mukund and Laxman. The left-handed Mukund, who survived a blow to the helmet minutes before lunch, blossomed after the break with off-side boundaries as he added 63 with Dravid for the second wicket.

Always uncomfortable against the short ball, he eventually gloved a snorter from Edwards to Baugh at 89 for two. Dravid then posted another 65 for the third wicket with Laxman before he slashed uncharacteristically at a wide ball from Edwards to give Ramnaresh Sarwan an easy catch at first slip after tea. That was to be the last success for West Indies as Laxman settled in nicely to stroke six fours off 171 balls, in a typically classy innings.

He survived a near chance to Darren Bravo at mid-wicket off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo when he was 31 and a sharp return catch to Sammy when 69, to play solidly as the rain that ravaged the last two days, stayed away in the late evening. Kohli, who got off the mark with a pulled six off Edwards, has so far faced 98 balls and struck a four in his knock.

Scoreboard: espncricinfo.com/west-indies-v-india-2011/engine/current/match/489227.html