Last chance to overcome adversity
It's the first time since England put them back in at the Queen's Park Oval and Sabina in the 1968 series in the Caribbean that West Indies have followed on in successive Tests.
They just survived in the first instance, two wickets away from defeat at the end. In the second, it was England who were in the same precarious position with eight down for 68 after an hour and a quarter tacked on at their request following a crowd riot when they were on top. It was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Test history. Not surprising, the incomparable Garry Sobers was to the fore each time.
There is no Sobers here and the present team, already beaten in the first Test by ten wickets, will be hard pressed to escape, far less repeat Sabina's 1968 near miracle. They could not hold out in their first innings yesterday, in spite of Ramnaresh Sarwan's polished 100, his 15th in Tests, and Denesh Ramdin's sparkling 55, and were three down second time round, Sarwan and captain Chris Gayle included.
The sight of Shivnarine Chanderpaul resuming this morning gives some hope of prolonged resistance for few have responded to such a crisis as he has done throughout his career, more especially over the last two years. Late in the evening, in his second appearance for the day, Chanderpaul duly surpassed Viv Richards as West Indies' second-highest scorer in Tests. It is an achievement that will please him, as it should, but no more than if he denies England the victory that appears almost certainly theirs at present.
He needs help, of course, just as Sobers did at Queen's Park, from Wes Hall who stayed the last hour and a half with him to repel England, and at Sabina from Seymour Nurse and, with the ball, Lance Gibbs who matched his three second innings wickets.
Lendl Simmons starts alongside Chanderpaul. He is a novice at this level but has shown the resolve, if not quite the technique, necessary to fight. He can choose no better time than now to make his mark. Brendon Nash, Chanderpaul's fellow left-hander with a similarly dogged approach to batting, has provided him with essential support more than once since his belated entry to Test cricket last December. He is unlikely to be dismissed as unluckily as he was yesterday.
Ramdin follows. The example he set at Lord's and again yesterday should be heeded by Jerome Taylor and Sulieman Benn. Both must appreciate that the indignity of another heavy defeat will not be avoided by their carefree batting yesterday.
These have been two woeful Tests for West Indies. They have been utterly outplayed in every department by an England team stunned by their surrender of the Wisden Trophy in the Caribbean and desperate to recover it. Their bowlers were aggressive and hostile yesterday, rarely giving the batsmen breathing space.
Stuart Broad's dismantling of Sarwan, a batsman with a hundred in the book and in command, was classic fast bowling. Broad launched a bodyline attack of pinpoint accuracy, forcing Sarwan to fend rising balls off his chest and once flooring him with a hit to the box. Finally, he made one lift so steeply that all Sarwan could do was opt for self-preservation. He saved his face but not his wicket as the catch lobbed off the shoulder of the bat to gully.
England's has been the intensity necessary at the highest level of any sport. It has been markedly missing in the West Indies effort and, for all the talk of the unsuitability of Test matches in the alien conditions, in the damp and the cold of May, the players are well paid professionals expected to overcome adversity. Today is their last chance.
Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years