May 8, 2000

Lift From Lefties

Bourda, Guyana - Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Nixon McLean are two left-handers of utterly different physiques, methods and batting ability.

They shared one common purpose on the third day of the first Test yesterday - and a record seventh-wicket partnership that halted Pakistan?s match-winning advance.

Their dogged, contrasting and timely defiance resisted bowling as varied and potent as any in the contemporary game for over two hours and yielded 74 runs, more than any West Indian seventh wicket in Tests against Pakistan.

It may not have prevented the prospect of a daunting last day on a worn pitch for the West Indies but, allied to the return of Guyana's more familiar weather that limited play to 44 overs between a late start and an early finish, it has appreciably diminished the degree of difficulty.

When fading light ended the tense contest with as many as 26 overs still scheduled, the West Indies were 222 for seven, behind by 66 with two days remaining, each to be extended by an hour to compensate for lost time.

Significantly, Chanderpaul was unbeaten with 46 when the light faded sufficiently behind a heavy cloud cover for play to be called off at 4:45 p.m.

His presence was essential once he became the last of the main batsmen after his captain Jimmy Adams edged the day's fifth ball, from Mushtaq Ahmed, low to first slip and two more wickets fell quickly and cheaply.

Half-hour later, Chris Gayle heaved a spiralling catch to mid-on, also off the mesmerising Mushtaq off whom he had stroked a couple of perfect off-drives.

When Ridley Jacobs sought a single on Chanderpaul's cut to third man off Mushtaq, found no response from his partner and was hopelessly run out at the bowler's end, the West Indies were 139 for six, 149 in arrears and in familiar collapse mode.

Fifty minutes into play that was delayed until 20 minutes after lunch by heavy overnight and morning rain, McLean, the tall, massive fast bowler with the build of Lennox Lewis, joined Chanderpaul, his diminutive, lightweight colleague not much bigger than Patrick Husbands.

On the ground where he made his Test debut as a 19-year-old six years ago and where he plays his club cricket, Chanderpaul batted throughout with the steady concentration and level-headed assurance that has earned him a Test average of 40.

Bothered by physical, and no doubt mental, fatigue, Chanderpaul had taken a month off during the One-Day Internationals. This was an important return and he looked his old self.

He carefully converted the nine he had at the start to 46, offering no chance and only occasional encouragement to Pakistani bowling that has tried everything in the four hours, ten minutes he has spent at the crease.

He was the only one who countered Mushtaq's dangerous flight and each-way turn with complete conviction. If only modern West Indian batsmen could emulate his nimble footwork they would not find spin bowling so much of a mystery.

McLean's reputation as a batsman, such as it is, is based on free-swinging power hitting.

Reflecting the new spirit that has typified the West Indies effort all season, he subdued his natural instincts in compiling his highest Test score, 46, keeping Chanderpaul company for ten minutes over two hours and actually outscoring him by two to one.

Understandably, he did not handle everything with Chanderpaul's aplomb.

He found the late swing of Wasim Akram, Abdur Razzaq and Waqar Younis, who shared duties at the northern end, as bothersome as Mushtaq?s googly.

But he bided his time through 23 scoreless balls at one stage and only ventured one tail-ender's swipe.

Even so, he thumped nine fours - to Chanderpaul's three. There were three off successive balls from Mushtaq, clean and hard through mid-off, fitting of any left-hander - yes, even you know who.

It required the second new ball to dislodge him as he snicked Waqar Younis? first delivery - the first pace for the day from the Regent Street end - to first slip.

Twenty minutes later, the clouds gathered, the light faded, play was abandoned and the West Indies gained more valuable time.