West Indies continue to rely on Lara
The match turned twice, both times when Brian Lara was given out. And on each pivotal occasion it was not because an easily achieved target was in sight, it was because the goals were so improbable that only his presence at the wicket could render any hope worthwhile.
England's first innings laid bare the inexperience of his young bowlers, wicketless and run-peppered, they could find little by way of strategy to balance pitch and batting conditions. Although it would be wise to study the way England crumbled towards the end for 568, it was hard to be consoled that there could be a similar run feast for West Indies. England had Stephen Harmison, weapon enough it seemed. But just as Fidel Edwards and Tino Best were more smoke than fire, so too did Harmison come up short, and it was Ashley Giles who proved the danger man, with Andrew Flintoff adding sparkle to all he touched.
It did not help that two of the batsmen in good form - Chris Gayle and Lara - were given rough decisions that felt like calloused hands squeezing West Indians privately in public, but Ramnaresh Sarwan had only himself to blame for doing the lbw dance that he recklessly repeated in the second innings. Yet, the total at the first end was not too bad, Shivnarine Chanderpaul shaking himself mentally to go the distance for a century. (And it is a bitter tale that the match ended with him three runs short of equalling Vaughan's feat of two centuries in each innings at Lord's.)
By the second innings, in a game where nearly a thousand runs had already poured like peas, it was clear that no miraculous shift was coming to slow down England. Even time, for once, seemed to stand aside and not want to be counted as a factor in this game. Vaughan had time to get another century and leave West Indies with 478 to win with a day and a long session for them to do it in. With so many overs to face, and more than 100 on the board before the final day (did the team then get fifth-day passes?) it seemed like there could be a chance. Gayle was playing magnificently, and even when he went and Sarwan went and Lara and Chanderpaul were holding fort, it seemed gettable. And then Lara, who seemed to be avoiding his natural game in the quest to last the full day, went to Giles, and not even Chanderpaul's last stand could save the match.
Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad.