November 18, 2012

Scrappy win gives West Indies pause for thought

Their bowlers stepped it up in the fourth innings, but their batsmen threw it away in the third

It was a case of all's not so well that ends well. West Indies eventually completed a victory that before the first Test, they would have been favoured to win. But there was much in the manner of the beating of Bangladesh in Dhaka for Darren Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson to chew on. Especially the fact that for between the last hour of the fourth day and the first session of the fifth, defeat, not victory, had to be contemplated.

For these two teams, strugglers in Test cricket, finishing off the job is the hardest thing. When he was forced to the middle late on the fourth evening, and watched as his side collapsed from the stability of 209 for 1 to 249 for 7; Sammy would have been reminded again of the frailties that still exist within his squad.

But the Bangladeshis have their own mental shortcomings. Tino Best preyed on those and became the hero his side desperately needed, as West Indies eventually managed to defend 245 and win by 77 runs. A more composed side than the home team may not have come up short. Even eternal optimist Sammy must recognise that. Coach Gibson too would have been less than pleased that his batsmen opened up a dying game with their loss of focus.

It suddenly became a different match once Darren Bravo gave wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim catching practice with a mindless flail at Rubel Hossain. Only in April, West Indies had scored 449 against Australia, declared, got themselves a lead, and then virtually handed the match to the opposition by folding for 148 the second time around. It is a pattern Caribbean sides have perfected in recent years. In Dhaka they threatened to stick to the script.

It helped that Bangladesh are even more unaccustomed to winning Test matches than West Indies. And that constant trier Tino came up with his best performance so far in five-day cricket. Kieran Powell, with his two centuries in the game, could hardly be denied Man-of-the-Match honours, but truly it was Best who won this match for West Indies.

All that he did not do in the first innings, Best did in the second. Curbing enthusiasm almost without limit, he crucially got control of his lengths and used the short ball with greater accuracy. The Bangladesh batsmen, so comfortable and resolute in the first innings in compiling their highest Test total, could not deal with the pressure Best applied.

Never the quiet one, his emotion poured forth like the beads of perspiration on his face when he smacked Mahmudullah's middle stump with one pitched up to end the game. A warrior's cry he let out; for it had been a battle in the hot, dry arena of the Shere Bangla stadium. To get a five-for in a match where over 1000 runs were scored over the first two innings alone, to get them when his team most needed them, was a feat to be remembered; for more reasons than one.

Filling in for the absent spearhead Kemar Roach, Best eventually proved an adequate replacement. His second coming at age 31 this year is proving to be worth the wait, and it gives the selectors another viable pace option in addition to Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards.

Chairman of selectors Clyde Butts would also be relieved that Veerasammy Permaul has started well. His inclusion in preference to Shane Shillingford on this tour was questioned. But the left-arm spinner delivered two wickets in the second innings in the first over of new spells to support the work of Best. His inclusion made up in part for what frontline offspinner Sunil Narine did not produce.

It helped that Bangladesh are even more unaccustomed to winning Test matches than West Indies

Despite his three first-innings wickets, Narine had a quiet time. There would have been too many four balls for his liking on a pitch that did not offer him much turn. His adjustment to the challenges of the longer game continues. But the work of Best and Permaul will have encouraged Sammy; contributions from fringe players always will, especially when they come in tight situations. Even more pleasing would have been the big statement made by opener Powell.

At the tender age of 22, the Nevisian left-hander already finds himself in elite company. George Headley, Clyde Walcott, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Lawrence Rowe, Gordon Greenidge and Brian Lara could all play a bit; and they were the only West Indians before Powell to make two centuries in the same game.

The Dhaka performance shows that Powell is learning how to play Test cricket. Always pleasing on the eyes, he was previously unable to convert good starts. And his technique got a searching examination against the Australian and English bowlers earlier this season. But Powell, a graduate of the new Sagicor High Performance Centre, came back to the Caribbean, immediately got a century and unbeaten half-century against India A, then 134 against New Zealand in the first Test, in Antigua.

He now has three hundreds in his last three Tests. His knocks at Shere Bangla were outstanding for the patience he showed and his hunger for scoring runs. Finally, perhaps, Chris Gayle may now have a regular opening partner.

It was good that Powell's hundreds, the double compiled by the evergreen Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin's second century in his last four Tests contributed to a win. In fact, all three of Powell's tons have come in West Indies victories.

West Indies are also on a rare roll - three wins in their last three Tests. That run is likely to continue in Khulna. But expect some more excitement along the way.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    In your list of west indies batsmen who scored a century in each innings of a test match, you have missed the name of Everton Weekes. He did that against India at Calcutta in 1948-49 series. His cores were 161 and 101. Only Walcott amongst the West Indian batsmen, did it twice that too, in the same series against Australia. Among all the batsmen of all countries, only Sunil Gavaskar scored a century in each innings of a Test match three times.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2012, 17:13 GMT

    Well thought-out article. Things to consider.

  • Brian on November 19, 2012, 1:00 GMT

    For Sammy's own longevity he should stop playing tests, not to mention he can't make the team on merit..but more for his own longevity.

  • Derek on November 18, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    @Samroy if you have ever played any sports at any level you will know that not all good players make good LEADERS. What the WI have identified is that since Clive Lloyd the team has given captaincy to players on account of their talent with bat or ball. However; with the exception of probably Richie Richardson they captains were not leaders of men. Stepping back allowing the likes of Gayle, Chanderpaul and to an extent Ramdin to focus on their 'roles' in the team Sammy brings that leadership quality which makes a difference. You and others are almost saying because Sammy has not scored 500 runs in an inning or take 10 wickets for 1 run he has no place in the team. Well based on such assessment Powell would be disguarded after his 5th test. All players are ranked based performances and Sammy has managed to achieve this. Do a little research before you start slander.

  • Sean on November 18, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Interesting article. One thing that has been overlooked in the stats about this test is the fact that this test made history for a number of reasons: 1. It was the first test ever in which the opening ball was hit for six; 2. It was Bangladesh's first test score of over 500 (a massive achievement in and of itself and congrats to the Bangladeshi team for doing that) and 3. It was the first time since 1994 (February to March 1994 to be exact) that West Indies have won 3 tests in a row (the last time in 1994 was against England). The last time West Indies won more than 3 tests in a row was in 1993 (January to April 1993) against Australia and Pakistan

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2012, 18:09 GMT

    SamRoy...Really that is your name? Darren Sammy has proven his worth, maybe you need to find a different sport to follow. The West Indies are progressing well and Sammy is a leader with a true love for the game and he needs the support of true cricket fans who can acknowledge his efforts. I look forward to seeing your name on a West Indies line up SamRoy.

  • stephon on November 18, 2012, 17:53 GMT

    Sammy does not warrant a place on the Test team. He cannot OCCUPY the crease which is essential in Test cricket. WI did not bat one hour into the final session on day 5 with Sammy adding i think 2 to his overnight score. His bowling is mediocre and is NOT a match-winner as Rampaul/Best/Roach etc could be on a given day. Keep him as captain for ODI and T20 but let someone else captain Tests

  • Muhammad Rakibul on November 18, 2012, 17:42 GMT

    @ SamRoy: Probably u haven't seen the match at all. Sammy picked up Tamim in the 1st innings when he were cruising over Tino & Narine. He also picked Naeem (108) in the same innings. Isn't it enough to pick most valuable 2 wickets of opponent to find his place in Test XI? His leadership is something that can't b earned only by dazzling per4mance. Gayle is a proof of it.

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    I think it's only fair that if Bangladesh aren't able to compete with the other test-playing nations on a consistent basis, then their test-playing status must come into question. Their test record for the last twelve years has been nothing short of atrocious, and plenty of other countries such as Ireland seem far more competitive on an international scale than they do.

  • Jawwad on November 18, 2012, 14:42 GMT

    @SAMROY: I am a Bangladeshi and was about to praise Bangladesh's effort's but I after seeing the comment by SAMROY I have got to say that he has no idea about cricket.

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