November 6, 2002

Sarwan scripts thrilling last-ball win

The Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur witnessed the coming of age of Ramnaresh Sarwan, who played a memorable knock to pull of a sensational last-ball win for West Indies. Sarwan snatched the thrilling victory, smashing a low full toss from Ajit Agarkar to the extra-cover fence. The post-match ceremony, then, saw Sarwan being fittingly crowned the Man of the Match for his outstanding unbeaten 83 off 89 balls, a knock punctuated with half-a-dozen boundaries and three big sixes.

Earlier, the game was disrupted by irate and disappointed spectators throwing bottles into the ground after West Indies came within shouting distance of victory. Play was held up at the end of the 47th over, with the tourists just 13 runs away from a win. The players returned after a ten-minute break but by then West Indies had lost the momentum as the contest dramatically burst to life in 49th over bowled by Ashish Nehra.

The dismissal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul (23 off 18 balls), caught by Ganguly off Nehra, suddenly turned the game on its head. The Indian left-arm quick went on to concede just one run, a leg-bye, to leave the West Indies needing six runs off six balls.

With the woefully out-of-form Ridley Jacobs (0) also running himself out in the final over, the tourists found themselves three runs short of a victory with one ball to be bowled. But a calm and collected Ramnaresh Sarwan, calculated well, chipping down the tack to turn Agarkar's intended full toss into low full toss, which he then promptly tonked to the boundary.

In the morning, India elected to bat and finished with 283/6 in their allotted 50 overs. After Virender Sehwag (28 off 26 balls) and Sourav Ganguly (16) failed on a belter of a track, it was left to Ajit Agarkar - batting at number three - and VVS Laxman to rebuild the India innings. The two batsmen did the job in fine style, adding 98 runs in 20 overs.

Agarkar played strokes in all directions and reached his second ODI fifty off 61 balls. Incidentally, his first, scored against Zimbabwe in 2000, continues to remain the fastest ODI fifty by an Indian batsman.

After Laxman (47) fell, bowled by leggie Mahendra Nagamootoo, Agarkar went on to find a good partner in vice-captain Rahul Dravid. Relishing his new role as a top-order batsman, Agarkar smashed a couple of huge sixes and eleven boundaries on his way to 95 off 102 balls in Dravid's company, before Pedro Collins had him snared by Gayle at covers.

Dashing middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh (4) failed, and so did the debutant Jai P Yadav (0), cleaned up by Mervyn Dillon. But the prodigious Mohammad Kaif came up with a brilliant cameo - 31* off 18 balls - and along with Dravid (46* off 42 balls) helped India post a big total.

When the tourists replied, they lost Chris Gayle (7) early, caught by Yadav at mid-off off Agarkar's bowling. But Wavell Hinds and Marlon Samuels shrugged off the loss and scored freely.

Hinds was considerably fortunate, umpire Asoka de Silva failing to see a thick edge and turning down an appeal for caught behind. In the same over, the West Indies opener celebrated the good fortune by smacking three boundaries off Ashish Nehra.

Samuels is an elegant batsman, and he continued his fine showing in this series, stroking the ball with ease to score a fluent half-century. The 86-run second wicket partnership ended when Samuels (51) was bowled off an inside edge off Kumble's bowling. With skipper Carl Hooper (4) departing after a brief stay, caught at the long-on fence by Yadav off the bowling of Sehwag, the West Indies were suddenly in strife.

Hinds, though, found a new ally in Ramnaresh Sarwan and the two went about the task of resuscitating their team's challenge with considerable ease. With Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble clearly struggling to find any sort of rhythm, the job was made easy for the Caribbean batsmen.

Hinds and Sarwan punished both the spinners - almost at will. Only Sehwag (10-0-37-1) could bring some sanity to the Indian bowling.

Hinds made 93 off 107 balls before he was finally given out caught behind off Nehra. Other than the lucky break early in his innings, he also enjoyed two let-offs - debutant Jai P Yadav and Kaif being the culprits.

Sarwan, then, took over, scoring the bulk of the runs in the 71-run fifth wicket partnership with Chanderpaul, which came off just 51 balls. The West Indies victory was literally ensured by then. But the crowd trouble followed leading to the unfolding of the drama which culminated in Sarwan ensuring the last-ball win.