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July 24, 2004
West Indies are still behind the eight-ball in this match, more than 200 runs adrift with two days to play, but it might have been worse. Those calamitous Harmison-induced Caribbean collapses are still open wounds, and after his raw decision yesterday Brian Lara must have feared another was on the cards.
But the follow-on was averted, largely thanks to a sensible fifth-wicket partnership between Shivnarine Chanderpaul, playing in his 77th Test, and Dwayne Bravo, playing in his first. Chanderpaul chipped and charged in his own unique crabby style - all nurdle and nudge, plus the occasional bent-kneed belt through the covers - which defies the coaching manual. It's pretty effective though: this was his 11th Test century.
But Bravo's debut was probably even better news for West Indies than Chanderpaul's return to form after something of a slump. Bravo hails from Santa Cruz, Lara's hometown in Trinidad, and he showed the odd sign of Laradom when he stood up straight to drive. He times the ball off his legs nicely too - his first ball yesterday was whisked to the midwicket boundary - and did well again today until, after being becalmed in the forties for more than 40 minutes, he played a hurried jumping stroke against a Simon Jones lifter and was caught behind
With his faster-than-it-looks bowling to add to his allround effectiveness, Bravo threatens to be a boon to headline-writers the world over for a few years to come.
And some of tomorrow's headlines faced a late rewrite when Andrew Flintoff, who was very tentative at first in a three-over spell that leaked 20 runs, suddenly started roaring in and demolishing the stumps. He was on a hat-trick after Tino Best played all around another straight one, and although Pedro Collins survived the vital ball he didn't last too long afterwards.
Still, Flintoff bowling at all is a calculated risk: despite those three spectacular successes you can't help thinking that really England would have been better served if he had taken his medicine (an ankle op and a layoff of five or six weeks) to be fully fit for the trials ahead - South Africa this winter and the Aussies next summer.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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