April 23, 2002

India record 37-run win in Port of Spain humdinger

It was a day of nail-biting cricket, make no mistake about that. Whether you were an Indian fan or a West Indian supporter, the day's play would have left you satisfied. It was a humdinger of a game, with a tough fight between bat and ball, but ultimately the target of 313 proved to be too much for the West Indies. With a 37-run win, India went 1-0 up in this five-Test series.

When the fifth day began, there was much anticipation of an inspired performance from either home-boy Brian Lara or skipper Carl Hooper. But clearly, India had the edge. Even with 182 to chase with eight wickets in hand, the West Indies had an uphill fight ahead of them if they were to pull it off. Barring rain, even the draw seemed extremely unlikely.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Lara began the day by looking over to the boisterous Trini Posse stand and asked them to turn the music off. Even the Prince was tense and needed to concentrate hard. Little did Lara know at that time that the Posse might as well have packed up their steel drums, put away their trumpets and saved their baritones. There would be no great West Indian win to celebrate.

For their part, India were as wound-up as they have been in recent times. Sourav Ganguly, constantly chatting to his bowlers in animated tones and occasionally even slipping a word in to the batsmen and umpires, was fired up. His team, not far behind, accordingly delivered the goods. Javagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan all bowled with purpose and fire to dismiss the hosts for 275.

Overnight on 40 and still searching for that elusive hundred at his home ground in Port of Spain, Lara flattered to decieve. After adding seven runs to his overnight score in a period of abundant caution and a hint of nervousness, Lara edged a quick one from Ashish Nehra to Dravid at slip. A perfectly pitched ball just outside the off-stump did just enough off the wicket to kiss the edge of the bat before landing safely in the hands of first slip. The West Indies were 157 for three at this stage.

Just two overs later, Hooper pulled a short one from Nehra straight to the hands of Shiv Sunder Das at square leg. Hooper had already played a couple of handsome strokes on the day, but he was clearly cramped for room when he attempted his shot. At 164 for four, the hosts were in trouble.

Chris Gayle, who went off the field of play after making 20, made his way back out to the middle at the fall of his captain's wicket. Getting his foot to the pitch of the ball, he made full use of every loose delivery that came his way. At the other end, Chanderpaul was his usual self, playing with care and application.

But Gayle is the kind of cricketer you don't want to entrust too serious a task to. After batting beautifully for 52 (176 balls, eight fours), the left-hander committed a serious blunder in driving the first ball of a new Zaheer Khan spell straight to Harbhajan Singh at point. West Indies were 237 for five when Gayle fell, and they slumped quickly to 238 for seven.

Junior Murray, who had not scored a run in two knocks in this series, replaced Gayle at the crease. After working one ball away to fine leg for a single, Murray committed suicide, taking off for a run without looking to Chanderpaul for confirmation. A good throw from Ratra to Das found Murray well short of his ground.

Mervyn Dillon lasted a breezy 30 seconds, walking all the way out to the middle to be clean-bowled by a quick, straight one from Javagal Srinath. Dillon's duck paved the way for an early entry for Marlon Black.

Using a very basic technique, planting his foot well forward and defending with a dead bat, Black managed to see off 24 balls before Srinath snuffed him out. With Black (3) playing forward almost every ball, Srinath banged one in a touch short for Black to awkwardly glove the ball through to Das at forward short-leg.

Chanderpaul, motoring along with a look of growing anxiety on his face, brought up his half-century with a streaky slash over the slips that raced away to the third-man fence. Going after Harbhajan Singh off the very last ball before tea, Chanderpaul (60 batting, 122 balls, four fours) had the hearts of West Indian supporters in their mouths as Asoka de Silva looked long and hard before saying "not out" to the appeal for a catch behind.

Adam Sanford's inexperience meant that his stay at the wicket yielded a solitary run and did little for the West Indian cause. But if people expected the West Indian last man to give in meekly, they had to think again.

In the 107th over of the innings, Chanderpaul had a big drive at a quick one from Srinath. Ajay Ratra, diving across well, pouched the ball low and in front of first slip. Umpire Asoka de Silva, unsure of the outcome, got on the walkie-talkie and consulted third umpire Eddie Nicholls. After a long delay and several replays, the green light came on. The decision is one that might be discussed ad nauseam, but given that India managed to go on to win anyway may quickly be forgotten.

It took 28 balls of obstinate defending before Zaheer Khan could entice Cuffy into a cut shot that landed in Bangar's hands at gully.

And then all India erupted in joy...