Dismantling new wall England's bigger picture
In the context of the first Test, the question might seem irrelevant for England are still well placed. But in the context the series, it might seem fair: how do they get Shivnarine Chanderpaul out? For 269 deliveries, and six-and-a-half-hours of match-play so far, the Guyanese has remained unconquered. On the first day of the cricketing summer, there was a raging debate about the selfishness of Chanderpaul and how it was hurting the cause of West Indies. Today, some might say, thank goodness for that.
Whatever Chanderpaul's faults, you cannot blame him for creating a contest. Test cricket clearly would have been poorer without him today, especially after the match rolled into England's hands inadvertently when the visitors lost three wickets in the space of nine deliveries before tea in tragic-comic circumstances.
And once Darren Bravo, who had been run out by Chanderpaul in the first innings, departed having failed to read the slider from the hands of Graeme Swann, a strong percentage of the cricket loyalists decided it was time to make alternate plans for Saturday evening. But Chanderpaul remained faithful and committed to his job and his responsibility as only he could - leaving , clipping, cutting, pushing balls in a relaxed fashion even as the batsman at the other end continued to be constantly under the scanner. In Chanderpaul's case, it seemed, it was the bowler who was actually under constant pressure to get him out.
In both innings, a brief look at the lengths Engalnd bowled indicate a high percentage of the balls were either short-of-a-length or good length. Today Stuart Broad kept coming back in gamely fashion at Chanderpaul but faltered by bowling from wide of the crease from over the wicket, offering the batsman enough width. James Anderson bowled full in the final session but once again at a length where Chanderpaul could easily clip him or punch him on either side. Tim Bresnan went for the aggressive strategy of hurling down some short stuff; though he was successful in hurrying Chanderpaul up and forcing him to fend or duck, he did not displace him out of his comfort zone.
The biggest strength, which no bowler has to tell you, is that Chanderpaul has time. Chanderpaul's first four came off the 71st delivery and by then he had spent 110 minutes at the crease. You don't need to swallow all those energy drinks on the shelves in supermarkets to learn about endurance. You just need to watch Chanderpaul, who can spend hours in the middle without breaking sweat.
So far this innings, Chanderpaul has played 95 deliveries compared to the 141 deliveries the top four West Indies batsman faced. Throughout his vigil, only twice was Chanderpaul beaten - once by the ball that Broad got to straighten, bowling from the edge of the crease, on the off stump and in the final half hour by Bresnan, who pitched it short and the world No. 1 batsman tried hooking it unconvincingly.
Some analysts on TV felt that it could be far more effective if England bowled straighter to Chanderpaul as the chances of getting him leg-before were greater. And numbers do not lie. Chanderpaul has been lbw 46 times, but if you look at the recent innings when he has been trapped plumb in front, he has scored three fifties, a hundred and 47. So it's not as if he gets out cheaply when he's out lbw. Also, in England he has been lbw only twice in 18 dismissals.
Former England captain Michael Atherton, speaking on TV, appropriately anointed Chanderpaul as the new "wall" in international cricket now that Rahul Dravid has retired. Just like Dravid had the ability to soak up all pressure and transfer it to the bowler, Chanderpaul, too, forces the opponent to bowl in his areas. And sometimes the obsession to get him out can play in his favour as England have so far found out in this Test.
Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies debutant, described how difficult it is to distract Chanderpaul even in nets. Gabriel, who was joint highest wicket-taker for the visitors with three victims, had dismissed Chanderpaul last year in the Caribbean regional competition playing for Trinidad & Tobago against Guyana. But he admitted Chanderpaul was a hard catch. Chanderpaul scored 80 in that match and lasted for four-and-a-half hours. "He plays the ball late and just clips or pushes through covers. It is impossible to get him out," Gabriel said.
West Indies trail by 35 runs. The task is not even half done and England will aim for a four-day finish. The onus now is more on Marlon Samuels, with whom Chanderpaul has shared a 55-run partnership. Samuels impressed many fans in the West Indies when he decided to play only a part of the IPL to return to play Test cricket. But Sunday could be a big test of Samuels' character because despite his experience, he only has two Test centuries under his belt. On Thursday, he picked up runs at a brisk rate, but vanished to a bold stroke, which had the signature of IPL written on it.
This time Samuels returned to play probably the shot of the day when he stepped out against a flighted off break from Swann and punched it delicately past cover for four. But Samuels needs to complement his senior partner for a few hours to come to revive West Indies' hopes.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo