December 29, 1999

Windies follow on

Not even a small classic of an innings by Brian Lara and a fantastic defensive effort by Adrian Griffith could stop the West Indies sliding closer to defeat by the end of the third day of the second Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve.

The visitors will need even stronger batting over the remaining two days, for they are still 337 runs short of suffering an innings defeat.

The brave Lara-Griffith rearguard action, in a fourth-wicket stand of 112, was the only solid contribution to the miserly first innings total of 179. Once again the fragile tail accentuated the touring side's batting problems, for the last four wickets fell for five runs in 17 balls.

In the last three overs Griffith was in defensive action again, and he and Sherwin Campbell took the total to two without loss - with the New Zealand first innings of 518 for nine looming over the West Indians like an avalanche which will sweep them away.

Once again, too, it was Chris Cairns who was the main destroyer with his hostile medium-fast bowling on a pitch which did not offer the quicker bowlers much assistance. The all-rounder took five wickets for 44, taking his tally in three Test innings against the tourists so far to 15 for 144.

After luckily getting Campbell's wicket the previous evening, Cairns sliced the top off the West Indian first innings, ripping out nightwatchman Nehemiah Perry at two wickets for five and Shivnarine Chanderpaul at three for 17.

Cairns was dynamic with the first new ball and led the tail-end slaughter with the second new ball.

But the heart of the struggle came when Griffith and Lara fought so valiantly when the bowling attack was dominated by two left-armers, Daniel Vettori, the finger spinner, and Shane O'Connor, the highly accurate medium-fast bowler who concentrates on the in-swinger to the right-hand batsmen.

During the long New Zealand first innings Courtney Walsh, Reon King and Franklyn Rose had mostly bowled down-wind from the southern end. They had been careless where they put their big-sprigged boots and had worn several patches almost in line with the left-hand batsman's off-stump, and on a tricky length.

So, faced by Lara and Griffith, and later Jimmy Adams and Ridley Jacobs, Vettori had a huge advantage against the left-hand batsmen. The ball would sometimes turn sharply, and occasionally snarl up with an awkward bounce.

Even while Lara and Griffith, solely intent on keeping their powder dry, advanced the score only to 44 for three by lunch, Vettori gave the impression that he would soon cut a wide swathe through the string of West Indian left-handers.

Griffith, less experienced, played Vettori's spinners gingerly, but with reasonable certainty. Lara, especially after lunch, gave a marvellous display of defensive technique while Vettori was making the ball perform some ridiculous tricks. The batsmen had to decide every ball whether they would defend with pad or bat or let the ball go through. The close-in fieldsmen waited for the mistake.

This brought out the brilliance in Lara's technique. For over after over he played Vettori as close to perfection as any human could expect to be.

Then, every now and then, when Vettori gave him a widish ball and the prospect of an attacking stroke Lara would pounce like a tiger. Again his technique was brilliant, for he never once lifted the ball in the air when attacking.

The scoring accelerated, a slow 140 balls for the first 50 of their stand, 79 balls for the next 50.

Then fate played Lara and his team a cruel trick. Yet another ball from Vettori jumped awkwardly, the ball hit the flap of Lara's front pad, bounced up, hit his elbow, and then dropped down and scuttled into his stumps.

His 67 (166 minutes, 145 balls, nine fours) might not rank among his masterpieces, but it was a stunning display of his batting skill.

Griffith also scored 67, but in very different style. He managed to stifle Vettori, and then frustrated the very accurate O'Connor who kept trying to get the outside edge of the bat. Perhaps once an over, O'Connor would beat Griffith outside the off-stump, but without getting the fateful edge. Twice at least in each over Griffith would infuriate O'Connor and the New Zealanders with his ability to 'leave' the ball as it swung away.

The technique was not as brilliant as Lara's, but it was just as effective. Griffith plugged on until Dion Nash went round the wicket. The batsman did not adjust his sights and the edge went low to Adam Parore, the 'keeper.

Griffith toiled for 345 minutes and found only six fours from 253 deliveries in a tremendous display of defensive concentration.

But once Griffith was gone the rest of the batting - except for a stubborn 99-minute stay by Ridley Jacobs - disappeared. Daren Ganga, of course, could not bat with his broken finger.

Now West Indies face another defensive fight and it will be interesting to see, whether that Lara-Griffith style of batting for survival, and pride rubs off on their team-mates.