Picture tells a bleak story
A picture, as the maxim goes, is worth a thousand words. One image on the TV screen on Friday summed up the exasperation over events in Abu Dhabi even more expressively than all the choice expletives that repeatedly echoed across the Caribbean during the week as West Indies confirmed their No.1 ranking in the "defeat from the jaws of victory" category in two ODIs against Pakistan.
It was of John Dyson, the head coach, ruefully shaking his head and visibly greying as Carlton Baugh trudged back to the pavilion in the second match. The gesture reflected as much his realisation of the dearth of batting reserves and cricketing common sense at his disposal as his annoyance at the manner and timing of the Baugh's dismissal.
Baugh was reinstated for the first time since 2006, ahead of incumbent Denesh Ramdin and the No. 2 Patrick Brown. It was presumably by way of a dashing, unbeaten, run-a-ball 111 for Jamaica against the Australians at Trelawney last May, his eighth hundred in first-class cricket in which he averages 34, more than either of the other two.
While Ramdin's keeping was impeccable in the subsequent Tests and ODIs against Australia, his batting had fallen off. It was said he needed a wake-up call. Why Brown was also bypassed is more difficult to explain but, since Baugh's keeping has never been flawless, he was chosen apparently to bolster the weakest West Indies middle order batting on record.
When he arrived under the lights in the middle of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Friday night, the match was finely balanced. Sohail Tanvir, Pakistan's left-arm swinger with the tangle-foot action, had removed Chris Gayle with an inswinging yorker and Sewnarine Chattergoon, both without scoring to set up an immediate crisis.
As Tanvir, Umar Gul and Iftikhar Anjum made the most of favourable conditions, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were stretched to the limit to survive -and it was either survival or another embarrassing all-out total. With the untested Xavier Marshall and Shaun Findlay next in the order, followed by Baugh and a tail starting with Jerome Taylor at No. 8, Sarwan and Chanderpaul were effectively the last of the recognised batsmen.
Painstakingly, they steadied the innings, putting on 92 from 23.3 overs. When Sarwan misread Shahid Afridi's googly to be lbw at a critical point, Marshall and Findlay, neither fully familiar with the hazards of running with Chanderpaul, were stranded when sent back after setting off for a single that did not take their partner's fancy.
By this time Chanderpaul, a well practiced hand in such challenging situations, was gradually increasing the initial, careful tempo. The function of who ever partnered him was clear. It was to supply him with the strike and keep their end going. It was an imperative that did not appear to register with Baugh. His approach to the eight balls he received was to back away to leg and swing wildly. Somehow, he gathered three runs. Suddenly, Chanderpaul stroked boundaries in successive overs from Anjum and Gul that yielded 16 in all.
The worms on the screen were touching - 65 were needed off 55 balls. All Chanderpaul required was for Baugh to remain calm and unbeaten but the wicketkeeper's thoughts had been scrambled by the adrenalin rush that overcame him from the time he stepped onto the ground. It was Gul who kept his cool, even at the end of an over already worth nine. His last-ball yorker shattered the stumps as Baugh stepped back for an indescribable stroke.
Dyson, already drained by Thursday's demoralising, last-over defeat when his best bowler, Jerome Taylor, was smashed for 17 in the final over, knew, as everyone else did, that was that. Chanderpaul, for all his resourcefulness, could not do it on his own. The tail offered as much support against the rampaging Pakistanis as could be expected which was never going to be enough.
As Daren Powell and Lionel Baker missed and Gul hit, Chanderpaul was left high and dry on 107 (his first 50 off 94 balls, the next 57 at run-a-ball) with the target 25 away. At the Queen's Park Oval last March, he won a match against Sri Lanka with a four and a six off the last two balls. No chance this time.
Baugh has been in and out of the team, dating back to the 2003 Tests against Australia. This is likely to be the last time since Ramdin's contrasting, composed response to similarly tight situations in the recent Stanford Super Series is certain to regain him his position.