May 13, 2003

Banks and Drakes seal historic three-wicket victory

West Indies 240 and 418 for 7 (Sarwan 105, Chanderpaul 104) beat Australia 240 and 417 by three wickets

Omari Banks and Vasbert Drakes propelled West Indies to a nerve-wracking three-wicket victory on the final morning in Antigua, as Australia's quest for an unprecedented clean sweep in the Caribbean came unstuck in the most thrilling fashion possible. Banks, who finished unbeaten on 47 in only his second Test, showed maturity beyond his 20 years, as he and Drakes overcame the early loss of Shivnarine Chanderpaul to knock off the 46 runs that remained of the highest fourth-innings chase in Test history.

After a fractious and utterly compelling final session on Monday, the atmosphere in the Antigua Recreation Ground was unrecognisable this morning. If the teams had been able to reach a conclusion last night, West Indies would surely have won at a canter, but with a chastened and reinvigorated Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie charging in with a newish ball, there were no foregone conclusions on offer.

The moment of victory: Stuart MacGill is despondent as West Indies celebrate

All of the Caribbean feared the worst when Chanderpaul, whose stunning strokeplay had put the Aussies to flight, lasted just one more Brett Lee delivery. Coming round the wicket, Lee straightened one on off stump, and Chanderpaul nibbled a catch through to Adam Gilchrist. He was gone for a magnificent 104, but like Sarwan before him, he appeared to have left the job uncompleted.

There are worse men to have coming in at No. 9 than Drakes, however. He and Banks drew the sting of Australia's assault with a calmness that was in stark contrast to the chewed fingernails in the stands and dressing-rooms. Drakes was greeted by a ferocious bouncer from Lee, then miscued an exocet from Gillespie into no-man's land behind the wicket, but in the eighth over of the day he flicked Lee for a much-needed boundary, and West Indies were up and running.

In the same over, Banks opened his account for the day, before finally connecting with one of his flowing cover-drives, to beat a floundering Andy Bichel to the rope. With 27 still needed for victory, Steve Waugh recalled Stuart MacGill, who had been subjected to a drubbing on Monday evening. Immediately Banks flashed MacGill through the grasping hands of Matthew Hayden in the gully, and Justin Langer was unable to prevent another boundary.

Omari Banks: the hero of the final day

Then MacGill lobbed one into the slot, and Drakes hoofed it mightily over cow-corner for six - it was a decisive moment. In one blow, the crowd emerged from behind their metaphorical sofas, as the total passed 400 and the target ducked below 20 runs. Gillespie though wasn't finished, and nearly decapitated Drakes with another perfectly directed bouncer, but Drakes responded with a fortuitous inside-edge to the fine-leg boundary.

The teams took drinks with 11 runs still required, but when umpire Shepherd turned down MacGill's stone-dead lbw appeal against Drakes, Australia's last chance had gone. Banks slapped at a MacGill full-toss and edged down to fine leg for four, and it was left to Drakes to seal the win, with a spanking cut through point. West Indies had achieved the impossible - preserving their proud home record and breaking India's 27-year-old record, to complete an astonishing run-glut of a series, in which 17 centuries were scored in four Tests.