Sarwan's late spark

Tony Cozier

July 2, 2002

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Grenada's inaugural Test was slipping back into an increasingly deep sleep when it was roused from its slumber in the final 25 minutes of the fourth day Monday, reawakening West Indies' hopes of a dramatic victory on the final day Tuesday (the day after WEEKEND NATION press time) to square the mini-series.

Enlivened on the previous afternoon by Chris Gayle's special dose of power-hitting, the match had once more been anaesthetised by a cocktail of a torpid pitch, limited West Indian bowling and a New Zealand team that had nothing to play for but the draw to put against their first Test triumph.

As the shadows lengthened, Carl Hooper was at his wits' end as to how to end an opening partnership of 117 between Mark Richardson and Lou Vincent that had capitalised on two early missed chances and occupied three-and-a-half hours.

With the still, lifeless pitch offering nothing to his main bowlers, whom he repeatedly switched around, and Richardson and Vincent already transforming a first innings deficit of 97 into a lead of 30, the captain summoned Ramnaresh Sarwan to try his hand from the River End.

There is no more confident cricketer and, when he trundles his leg-spin in the nets, Sarwan considers himself at least the equal of Shane Warne.

The last time Hooper asked him to break a stand, he responded with two wickets from successive balls in the Barbados Test against India in May.

This time he struck with his third ball that had a Warne-like quality about it. Cleverly disguised, it was quicker and flatter than the previous two and sneaked under Vincent's surprised bat to hit off-stump, bowling him for 54.

Six overs later, Hooper's sharp off-break that pitched outside leg-stump found the edge of rival captain Stephen Fleming's uncertain bat on its way to Brian Lara at slip.

Richardson, following his first innings 95 with another dogged innings, was unbeaten 69 as he and fellow left-hander Chris Harris nervously batted through to the end when New Zealand, 139 for two, were 42 ahead.

It left the West Indies with a slim, but realistic, chance of pressing for the result that would bring their prolonged international season to a satisfactory end over the minimum 90 overs that remained.

The likeliest outcome? A draw.

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