CricViz analyst Srinivas Vijaykumar looks how Rahkeem Cornwall’s career best performance gave Windies the upper hand at the end of Day 1 in this one-off Test match
Jason Holder won the toss and elected to field first on a pitch that had a fair bit of grass, hoping for assistance for his seamers early on. Holder’s decision isn’t very common in Test matches in India. Since the start of 2007 in 67 Tests in India, the captain winning the toss has elected to bat first on 63 occasions. The captain was counting on his quick bowlers to make the early breakthroughs, but it was his spinners, led by Rahkeem Cornwall, who made the difference.
Striking early in the first session
Afghanistan got off to a great start with 84-1 on the board moments before the lunch break. Jomel Warrican triggered a collapse as the hosts lost six wickets for 27 runs, reducing them to 111-7. Cornwall’s exceptional bowling was the backbone of this collapse, with the off-spinner taking four of the six wickets.
Cornwall was introduced into the attack after just eight overs, and made an impact in his third over when he dismissed Ibrahim Zadran. The major contribution in the session came on the stroke of lunch with Warrican and Cornwall picking up a wicket apiece within the space of three overs, reducing Afghanistan to 90-3. Since 2006, this was the first time Windies spinners had taken more than two wickets in the first session on Day 1.
Cornwall’s record breaking haul
Rahkeem Cornwall’s haul of 7-75 made him only the fourth West Indian to take a seven-wicket haul in Tests in Asia. The three previous instances include Andy Roberts’ 7-64 v IND in 1975, Lance Gibbs’ 7-98 v IND in 1975 and Devendra Bishoo’s 8-49 v PAK in 2016. Playing in only his second Test match of his career, the off-spinner has reached heights putting him alongside some past Windies greats.
The off-spinner’s guile
On a pitch that was offering turn straightaway in his first over, it was the off-spinner’s guile and variations that made him a tough to face. He mixed his sharp off-break deliveries with several straighter ones that kept the batsmen guessing and eventually led to their dismissals. The seven wickets were a perfect mix: three off attacking shots, four off defensive shots; three with the batsmen playing off the front foot, three off the back foot and one charging down the wicket. It all pointed to Cornwall’s clever variations and how the Afghanistan batsman struggled to cope with them. 15% of Cornwall’s deliveries resulted in finding the edge of the batsmen, no bowler found the edge as often as him today. All the other spinners collectively found the edge off 6% of their deliveries, so Cornwall was operating at a level significantly higher than the average for the day. The Windies are currently on top in this test match with a 61% chance of winning according to WinViz. A major part of that is down to Cornwall’s brilliance today.