December 30, 1999

Fateful loss for WI

As they seemed fated to do, West Indies lost the second Test to New Zealand by an innings and 105 runs with a day to spare at the Basin Reserve yesterday, but the West Indians had fought tenaciously, and deserved better than what appeared to be summary execution by one umpire in the last 32 minutes of the match.

Afterward Brian Lara, the captain who led the rearguard action nobly, the coach Sir Viv Richards and the manager Clive Lloyd maintained a tight-lipped attitude - that now seems to be part of the International Cricket Councils (ICC) code of conduct - when asked their opinion about the umpiring.

Lara politely remarked that cricketers took the rough with the smooth.

One of those who benefited, Dion Nash, the New Zealand seamer who took four wickets for 38, said that some days bowlers have decisions go against them, and on other days they get decisions which tend to balance out the matter.

But all the instant action and television replays suggested that from 204 for five wickets, West Indies lost Nehemiah Perry (0), Lara (75) and Courtney Walsh (0) to highly dubious decisions from Evan Watkin, a Wellingtonian standing in his second Test match.

This left West Indies 225 for eight wickets, with Daren Ganga unable to bat, and the innings finished at 234 and the match at 6:20 pm, 40 minutes before the scheduled fourth day close.

Perry went to an lbw appeal from the medium-pacer Nathan Astle, when the ball did keep a little low, but Perry was taken on the front pad, and neither Watkin nor the Zimbabwean umpire Russell Tiffin had agreed with front-foot lbws earlier in the match.

That wicket fell at 204, and at 225 the last West Indian resistance disappeared with Lara.

Nash came back with the old ball, the new one available, and his third ball was an average-looking off-cutter which angled across Lara from leg to off.

Lara drove at the ball, missed, and the off-cutter action caused a little deviation into Adam Parores gloves.

The New Zealanders followed the usual practice by appealing mightily, and the umpire Watkin agreed. Lara obviously did not, with a little gesture of annoyance, but left and the last West Indian hope went with him.

Just to make sure Walsh, promoted from his usual No. 11 position, was two Nash balls latter judged lbw by Watkin.

In this case the ball was heading straight for the stumps, hit the toe of Walshs bat and squirted down onto the toe of his boot.

Walsh gave the umpire, Watkin, a furious glare, waved his bat a little, but then departed probably satisfied his protest had been noted, but was within the ICC code.

The end came soon afterward, Franklyn Rose palpably lbw (this time Tiffin was the umpire) but not before Rose had hit a big six from Daniel Vettori over long leg.

The pity was that so much of the West Indies batting in the previous five hours had been vigilant against a persistent New Zealand attack working on a pitch that had lost some pace, but occasionally offered a strange bounce.

Sherwin Campbell was quickly, and obviously, lbw to Chris Cairns, but then Adrian Griffith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul slowly lifted the total, only to have Griffith try a dodgy second run, and lost the race against a brilliant throw from Nash in the deep.

This brought lunch at 83 for two, and afterward Lara and Chanderpaul soldiered along manfully. Then, at 148 for two wickets and after Chanderpaul had batted well for his 70 runs in three hours, he got an outside edge to Nash and was taken at the wicket - the third time in four test innings Chanderpaul had expired in this fashion.

For once Jimmy Adams did not last long, taken on the glove from a flier from Nash. Lara, meantime, was cruising along comfortably, and Ridley Jacobs helped lift the total to 189 before he went bat-pad to Vettori pitching in the rough for the umpteenth time.

That may have been the beginning of the end, but the West Indians certainly deserved a more dignified finish than to be flummoxed by Watkins umpiring.

It was a pity that the New Zealand winning effort should come from such a bizarre last chapter in a thoroughly engrossing game over four sunny Wellington days.