July 17, 2002

Intriguing finish looms at Arundel

The tour match between West Indies A and the Indian tourists at Arundel remains in the balance. VVS Laxman's side went to stumps on day two at 87/3, a lead of 74. It remains to be seen whether the Indians will look to force a result or settle for batting practice tomorrow.

After bowling the West Indians out, India lost Shiv Sunder Das first ball, edging Reon King to Keith Hibbert. Sanjay Bangar (27) and Ajay Ratra (eight) fell before the close, while Wasim Jaffer (43) and Parthiv Patel (0) remained unbeaten.

Despite enterprising fifties from Devon Smith (69) Ryan Hinds (62) and Dwayne Bravo (55) West Indies `A' lost wickets in flurries as the advantage ebbed and flowed all day. Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agarkar both picked up four wickets to nudge the selectors in the run-up to the Test series.

After reducing Daren Ganga's men to 64-3, the Indians failed to push a potential advantage home with wayward bowling and sloppy fielding. The side was revived before tea as West Indies `A' contrived to throw away their last six wickets for 66 runs.

Harbhajan was initially thrashed at six runs an over, with Bravo facing only 52 balls, hitting nine fours and a six. He hit a string of powerful leg-side boundaries, including a massive sweep shot over the ropes. The tormented turned tormentor before tea though, as Harbhajan induced another big sweep which the 18-year-old missed and was adjudged lbw. Chris Gayle faced only three balls before becoming the third leg before victim of the day.

Hinds soon followed, caught behind as Agarkar claimed his fourth victim. The Barbadian's knock had been more measured, with six boundaries in a two-and-a-half hour innings. The tail folded quickly as West Indies A were dismissed for 266.

Earlier, Ganga had been the first to fall, nicking Agarkar to Ratra for four. Agarkar picked up Donovan Pagon, leg before for a duck, while Lendl Simmons laboured for nearly an hour before nicking an ill-judged slog.

Smith had remained positive throughout, hitting hard particularly through the off-side. The Grenadian seems a different man since he crashed a career best 181 against Lancashire last week. He hit thirteen boundaries in just 96 balls, but was given a life in the forties when Laxman dropped a Tinu Yohannan induced edge in the slips. To compound the pain, Smith thumped a straight drive to reach his fifty later in the over. He was finally run-out for 69.