West Indies v Australia, Fourth Test Match

 

West Indies v Australia, Fourth Test Match

At St John's, May 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 2003. West Indies won by three wickets. Toss: Australia.

Many expected the final Test to bring a disappointing series to a historic conclusion with Australia's first Caribbean clean sweep. Few, though, could have imagined the controversies that the game would bring and still less that West Indies would etch their names in the record books by achieving the largest successful run-chase in 1,645 Tests.

The talking-point on the opening day was in fact more of a whisper. Presented with the most sporting pitch of the tour, Lawson could scarcely hide his excitement - and exposed hitherto unseen weaknesses in the Australian batting, which was without Ponting, suffering from a viral infection. Lawson, fast and furious, pocketed careerbest figures of seven for 78 in Australia's modest 240. But by the end of the day the word was spreading around the Recreation Ground: to many, Lawson's action, which had first drawn the attention of the series referee, Mike Procter, during the First Test in Guyana, looked dubious. The murmurs grew louder when umpires David Shepherd and Venkat called for video evidence. By the fourth day, Procter confirmed that Lawson had been reported to the ICC for a suspect action.

By then, other storm clouds had gathered over St John's. On the second morning, Lara walked out to bat in a bellicose frame of mind, had exchanges with three Australians before he faced his first ball, from Lee, and duly hammered it over point for six. Lara spent the first half-hour of his innings arguing furiously with his tormentors, and at one stage stood toe to toe with Waugh, who had moved to short cover to pepper him with more chat, causing umpire Shepherd to intervene briefly.

It was an unedifying spectacle, though no further action was taken by umpires or referee. The game, however, continued to simmer, partly due to the closeness of the contest. West Indies also scored 240, the seventh instance of precise first-innings equality in Test history, and then - with Lawson ostensibly sidelined by a back strain - Dillon finally lived up to his billing as bowling spearhead to keep his team in the match. The importance of his four for 112 cannot be overstated, particularly after Australia raced to 242 from 55 overs on the strength of Langer and Hayden's fifth double-century opening stand, more than any other pair in Test history.

By restricting Australia to 417, about 150 fewer than Waugh had envisaged, West Indies had left themselves a target which, though unlikely, was not impossible now that the pitch had lost its juice if not its bounce. With more than two days available, time at least was on their side. But when West Indies wobbled to 74 for three on the fourth morning, the existing record score to win a Test - the 406 India hit against West Indies in Trinidad 27 years earlier - appeared safe. And hope was all but extinguished when Lara was fourth out at 165, trying to belt MacGill for a fourth huge six down the ground. But Sarwan and Chanderpaul, who was nursing a broken finger, got on with the task - and under the skin of the Australians, especially McGrath. As Sarwan approached a mature hundred, there were signs that Australia were losing the plot. McGrath, who started the verbal war, became utterly incensed at Sarwan's riposte - he apparently referred to McGrath's wife. After a set-to with the batsman, he wagged his finger at umpire Shepherd, demanding he get involved. Despite this, no official action was taken, though once pictures were beamed round the world both the ACB and ICC castigated the Australians and called on them immediately to mend their ways.

When Sarwan had taken his score to 105 and his stand with Chanderpaul to 123, he mishooked Lee to leave the game perfectly poised: at 288 for five, either 130 runs or five wickets would settle it. The first-ball dismissal of Jacobs, caught behind though he was struck on the elbow, initially tilted things Australia's way. The crowd were furious, and disrupted play by throwing bottles on to the outfield. Through all this - and a rain delay - Chanderpaul kept his concentration to reach a magnificent hundred. By the close, Australia needed four wickets for the clean sweep; West Indies 47 runs to prevent it.

On the final morning, Chanderpaul added only one to his overnight 103 before Lee prised him out, too, leaving West Indies to rely on Banks and Drakes, neither really an all-rounder. But they coolly took care of the 46 needed to reach a stunning, unparalleled victory. The Australian bowlers, having worked themselves into the ground to set up the series win, now made history as the attack to concede most runs to lose a Test. Lara reckoned the win the zenith of his career.

Man of the Match: S. Chanderpaul.

© John Wisden & Co.