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June 16, 2007
Two men rejuvenated West Indian fortunes last week; Darren Sammy, who couldn't win his fitness race for a second Test cap despite the opening-day washout, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul who negotiated 257 balls on a spitting, gripping surface. Chanderpaul missed the debacle in Leeds - and how West Indies missed him - but he was given a sense of what it was like when he strode in today with the score a predictable 34 for 3. The fact he was still there when further rain drove the players off the field shortly before 5.30pm is testimony to his adaptability; after combating the spin he has now fought off the swing and seam.
His three previous innings in the series have brought a lowest score of 50 and he has now faced 619 deliveries this summer (purely a reference to the meteorological season, not the actual weather) in 15 hours. When he turned Steve Harmison off his pads down to fine leg he became the seventh West Indian to pass 7000 Test runs. The exclusive club is Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes; Chanderpaul has earned his admission. West Indies might be all out without him.
England spurned an early chance to dislodge him, on 9, when Ian Bell couldn't hold a high chance at third slip. Matthew Hoggard, who'd earlier collected his first Test scalp since December 27 when he trapped Chris Gayle lbw, screamed as the ball flew to third man. He knew what was about to happen. "He doesn't seem in bad form," Hoggard said dryly, "He's always a nasty one to give a chance too. It was hard, they either stick or they don't, I was hoping it would. We've got two more wickets and the bowlers are in. It would have been interesting to see if we'd taken him [Chanderpaul] early."
However on cue, Chanderpaul started shuffling West Indies out of their hole. In such bowler-friendly conditions batsmen need some luck and Chanderpaul played and missed, especially against Hoggard, but remained unflustered, playing within his limitations, and those imposed by the conditions.
West Indies' top order should take note as some of the strokeplay suggested they thought the match had been reduced to a one-day affair. Life can't be easy for Daren Ganga, a captain who knows he is on his way home in four days time, and finding short-leg first ball with his firm clip was symptomatic of someone whose fortunes are sliding. His scores since Lord's read 5, 9, 5, 2 and 0. Chris Gayle, though, should be thinking of leading by example now he's one-day skipper, but a wild swing at Hoggard summed up his tour and Runako Morton's drive to mid off was plain awful after he'd shown such restraint at Old Trafford.
Hoggard, whose wicket moved him joint sixth in England's all-time list with Alec Bedser, and Ryan Sidebottom, both handed the new ball ahead of local boy Steve Harmison, found plenty of swing and there was a reassuring feel to the attack with Hoggard back after missing two Tests. "I had genuine nerves going into the game," he admitted. "With the conditions and wicket as it, there's pressure that it will suit your style of bowling and you've got to swing it."
His economical figures could have looked even better but for Chanderpaul being dropped, yet Hoggard wasn't going to get too wound up about how to remove West Indies' immovable object. "Ninety percent of batsmen getting out is them getting themselves out, it's not the bowlers getting them, they play a bad shot or do something stupid. We've just got to put enough balls in the right areas to make them do that." But regardless of how many deliveries England send down to Chanderpaul they are all being treated with an increasingly broad bat. Some of his team-mates owe it to Chanderpaul to follow his lead.
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