May 14, 2002

Antigua Test meanders to tame draw

Cricket can be a cruel game. And, on the odd day, it can even be a farce. The final day of the fourth Test match was, in all honesty, more fun and games than serious cricket. The West Indies amassed a mammoth 629 for nine before the game, not unexpectedly, petered out to a draw.

When the day began, one Indian innings and half a West Indian innings were complete.

Ridley Jacobs, coming back to the West Indian team fresh from a double-hundred in a club game, appeared in prime form. Confidence personified, Jacobs bludgeoned the ball to all parts of the ground. Starting with a heave off Sachin Tendulkar that landed in stands at square leg, Jacobs unfurled a series of positive shots.

The shot of the session easily was the six Jacobs hit off Nehra. Stepping across his stumps, the West Indian 'keeper launched into an on-drive, hit the ball cleanly and powerfully, sending it over the stands and onto the roof. As if to show that he could play on the offside as well, Jacobs played two exquisite cover drives, one off the back foot and one off the front.

In stark contrast, Shivnarine Chanderpaul was cautious on the way to his third century of the tour. Taking ample time and hardly striking any boundaries, Chanderpaul eased his way to three figures. Stroking a Nehra full-toss to the on-side the Guyana middle-order batsman relieved the tension. As is his tradition, he promptly knelt over and kissed the pitch.

Chanderpaul has failed just once in the series, when he was adjudged lbw for one at Guyana in the second Test; on that occasion, the ball had appeared to pitch well outside the leg-stump. So it has certainly been a rum tour for him.

All this until lunch, when India still persisted with its frontline bowlers.

After lunch, the Test turned into extreme farce. Jacobs scoring 118 (206 balls, 11 fours, five sixes) was the highlight of the session. The hard-hitting wicket-keeper made history of sorts. This is the first instance in the history of the game when both 'keepers have scored centuries in a Test.

The West Indies reached a mammoth 591 for six at tea. The fact that Jacobs was dismissed by Rahul Dravid should be enough proof that this kind of cricket is just about the worst advertisement for Test cricket. Playing a massive across-the-line heave, Jacobs holed out to Laxman in the on-side. Not before he had hit five clean sixes and 11 fours, though.

Then came heightened comedy. Not wanting to tire out their main bowlers, and one really couldn't blame them for that, India used every conceivable bowler. Wasim Jaffer, VVS Laxman and Shiv Sunder Das all sent down some gentle, inviting off-spin. Even the captain himself could not resist the temptation and sent down an over that was a mixture of off-spin and leg-spin just before tea. Dillon knocked 14 runs off that over and reached 31 (45 balls, four fours, two sixes).

Unfussed by everything happening around him, Chanderpaul continued to occupy the crease.

So maybe the highlight of each session of the final day was a comical event rather than an epochal event. The last session outdid its predecessors, however. India used all 11 members of the team to bowl at least one over; Laxman, Jaffer and Dravid all picked up their first Test wickets, and the West Indies declared on 629 for nine. Chanderpaul was unbeaten on a very patient 136 off 510 balls. The match, of course, was called off as a draw when Hooper declared the innings closed.

It was only the third time in history that all 11 members of a team had bowled. But all that is only academic, grist to the statistical mill. The series now stands 1-1, with everything to play for at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica. Expect some changes to both sides, and hopefully a far more exciting game.