Antigua - Some considered him lucky to be playing in this Test, he enjoyed some luck against testing bowling at the start of the innings, but Shikhar Dhawan helped India keep a disciplined West Indies attack at bay with his first half-century in eight innings.

The man who made the call to persist with Dhawan, Virat Kohli, provided the impetus the Indian innings needed, reaching his highest score against West Indies in a 105-run partnership with Dhawan, which ended at the stroke of tea.

India would have expected to work hard for their runs when they chose to bat on a slow pitch surrounded by a slow outfield in St John's, but hands in front of helmets as protective action wouldn't have been on agenda. In their first Test under new bowling coach Roddy Estwick, the West Indies attack, thin on numbers but displaying tenacity, tested the Indian top order in the first session of the series. Shannon Gabriel, making a Test comeback after a good comeback in the ODI triangular series earlier in the season, rattled the openers with his pace, accounting for M Vijay with a lovely bouncer, but Dhawan was prepared to weather the storm before capitalising on the second string, an older ball and falling intensity. Kohli, on the other hand, came out full of intent.

The play began along expected lines. India packed their side with bowlers, specialists all, and West Indies took the safer route of playing the extra batsman, debutant Roston Chase. India were expected to look for runs, and relatively quick runs, while West Indies were expected to frustrate India. On the field it was going to be a test of execution and endurance for an attack whose third specialist bowler was Jason Holder, listed in some sheets as an allrounder.

The execution was near perfect before lunch. In his first spell of 4-2-6-1, Gabriel roughed up both Dhawan and Vijay. Dhawan had the worse of exchanges, top-edging Holder before fending hopelessly four times in a row against Gabriel. Vijay edged the second bouncer he faced for Kraigg Brathwaite to juggle a catch at second slip. Holder - first spell of 5-2-10-0 - had played his part in making Gabriel effective.

Dhawan might have had the problem against the short ball, but his discipline outside off and his will to make the bowlers get his wicket stood out. He refused to fall for the sucker delivery after the short ones, shelving his cover drive - only seven of them in two sessions - for most of the first session and indulging only in a late cut off offspinner Chase, who had begun to get in cheap overs of part-time offspin in the first session of this Test. Unlike Cheteshwar Pujara, who got stuck and fell for 16 off 67 after a 60-run partnership, Dhawan kept finding a way to score. If it was the late cut at start - 14 runs off five attempts - he began to use his feet towards the end of the first session. He went into lunch with 29 off the last 26 balls, and would come back to get himself in before opening up again.

Pujara, though, fell immediately after lunch, getting a leading edge off a short legbreak from the returning Devendra Bishoo. The wicket changed the complexion of the day's play. With Kohli came out intent to score runs. This flat and slow pitch didn't call for a watertight technique so Kohli could take a few liberties on that front, but his attitude to look to score first before falling back on other options exposed the limited West Indies attack: their third bowler was captain Jason Holder, who on many sheets is marked as an allrounder.

Until now West Indies had kept India quiet by bowling well outside off, but Kohli began driving at them, a shot that this early in the innings can be dangerous in some conditions but not here. There was no seam, no unfriendly bounce, and the ball was too old to swing. As if a sign of how the West Indies concentration was now being tested, Kohli's first boundary came through a misfield, from Marlon Samuels.

Floodgates opened then. Dhawan found more authority in his cuts, upper-cutting Gabriel for a six, he swept Bishoo, stopped missing chances for singles; Kohli kept driving imperiously. In the 34th over, the run rate reached three for the first time since the third over. The two kept picking ones and twos effortlessly. Before you realised Kohli had followed Dhawan to a half-century, bringing it up off the 75th ball he faced. Bishoo, though, came back just before tea to trap Dhawan plumb on the sweep.

Only once previously was there an alarm for India during this partnership, when after a mini quiet period, Kohli drove at a wide Brathwaite delivery. The edge flew wide of gully. On this pitch such a drive, to prevent the bowlers from bowling quiet overs wide outside off, was a risk worth taking. As was playing five bowlers. Kohli was prepared to take both.

Scoreboard

INDIA 1ST INNINGS:

M Vijay c K Brathwaite b Gabriel               7

S Dhawan lbw b Bishoo 84

C Pujara c K Brathwaite b Bishoo               16

V Kohli not out  65

EXTRAS: (b4, lb1, nb2)    7

TOTAL: (54.5 overs, 3 wickets)    179

FOW: 1-14, 2-74, 3-179

BOWLING: Gabriel 10-4-29-1, Holder 12-3-33-0, C Brathwaite 12-3-35-0, R Chase 8-0-30-0, Bishoo 12.5-0-47-2.

TOSS: India

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (PAK), Ian Gould (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SLK)