Antigua, July 22 (IANS) Leading from the front, skipper Virat Kohli smashed his 12th Test century to guide India to an impressive 302/4 at stumps on the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies at the Sir Viv Richards stadium here on Thursday.
Kohli remained unbeaten on 143 off 197 balls alongside Ravichandran Ashwin’s 22 not out off 69 balls.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, India were off to a disappointing start, losing the wicket of opener Murali Vijay (7) few minutes after start of play and Cheteshwar Pujara (16) cheaply just after lunch.
But Dhawan and Kohli put on a 105-run partnership for the third wicket to rescue the visitors.
The hosts struck just at the stroke of tea dismissing set batsman Dhawan to have India at 179/3 in 54.5 overs.
The fall of Vijay brought in No.3 Pujara, who along with southpaw Shikhar Dhawan (84) forged an unbeaten 58-run stand for the second wicket when the umpires called for lunch.
But soon after lunch, leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo dismissed Pujara to end the 60-run partnership for the second wicket.
Pacer Shannon Gabriel drew first blood for the hosts with an accurate delivery on middle and off which climbed on Vijay, forcing him to nick and was well caught by Kraigg Brathwaite at second slip in his third attempt.
Vijay consumed 26 deliveries for his seven runs which included a boundary.
Dhawan, who has been long due for runs started vulnerably getting a thick edge off a short ball from Gabriel but survived only to flourish with a flurry of shots on the off-side.
The Delhi left-hander seems to have found his groove, with his knock coming off 74 deliveries and comprising four boundaries.
Pujara, meanwhile, stood rock solid taking 63 balls for his patient 14 on a pitch which had a bit of bounce for both spinners and pacers.
Earlier, keeping his five-bowler strategy intact, Kohli opted for three seamers in Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami while picking leg-spinner Amit Mishra alongside offie Ravichandran Ashwin.
The batting line-up relatively remains the same with Dhawan and Vijay at the top followed by Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Stumper Wriddhiman Saha will bat at No.6.
For the hosts, skipper Jason Holder has decided to go in with six batsmen and four bowlers, with middle-order batsman Roston Chase making his debut.
After the dismissal of Vijay and Pujara, Dhawan and Kohli played on well to complete the 100-run partnership for the third wicket.
Both the batsman completed their half-centuries and stayed on course for a big one.
But the 105-run partnership came to an end in the 55th over when Bishoo struck for the second time in the day to dismiss the left-handed batsman and take the advantage away from India, who had so far had a good session.
After tea, Kohli kept his sublime form going as he along with Ajinkya Rahane (22) helped the visitors cross the 200-run mark with ease.
But Bishoo showed his class yet again dismissing Rahane in the 68th over of the play to put breaks on India’s scoring.
Despite wickets falling at other end, the skipper played his natural game and with night-watchman Ashwin, kept the run flow going and helped India cross the 300-run mark at end of day’s play and stay on course for a big first innings total on the second day.
India have won both their previous two Test series against the West Indies in 2006 and 2011.