June 29, 2003

Lara and Sarwan romp to victory

Wisden CricInfo staff

West Indies 191 and 212 for 3 (Sarwan 82, Lara 80*) beat Sri Lanka 208 and 194 (Collymore 7-57) by seven wickets

It threatened to be a tense, tentative shuffle of a run-chase, but it turned into a joyful end-of-term romp, as Ramnaresh Sarwan and Brian Lara flailed 161 runs for the third wicket to seal the second Test against Sri Lanka in Jamaica, and with it the series. Sarwan, who had come to the crease at 1 for 1 in the third over, played a scintillating innings of 82, studded with 13 fours all around the wicket and a six over backward square-leg, and for once even Lara was overshadowed by his strokeplay.

The match ended on a note of anticlimax for a frenzied Kingston crowd, when Sarwan holed out to cover with the scores level, but fittingly it was left to Lara to nudge the winning runs off Muttiah Muralitharan, with whom he had enjoyed a fascinating tussle in the early part of his innings, but over whom he once again established his mastery. Lara was left not out on 80, taking his series aggregate to 299 runs.

In what had effectively become a one-innings contest, Sri Lanka had resumed in the morning on their overnight 129 for 5 - a lead of 146 - but had no answer to an extraordinary spell of bowling from Corey Collymore, who had been ignored by the Test selectors for four years, but responded with career-best figure of 7 for 57, including all five of the remaining wickets in an eight-over spell.

It took just three overs of the third day for Collymore to make the breakthrough - Sri Lanka's captain, Hashan Tillakaratne, who played loosely across the line to a length delivery, and lost his off stump for 7 (138 for 6). With every run crucial on a tricky pitch, Chaminda Vaas restored Sri Lanka's fortunes with a volley of boundaries in a brisk counterattack, but Collymore struck back for West Indies with two wickets in an over.

First he tempted Kumara Dharmasena into nibbling a simple catch to Lara at first slip (173 for 7), then followed up with a superb delivery, angled across Vaas's bows, which was athletically caught by Lara, diving forward from slip (176 for 8). Muralitharan then spooned a brainless carve straight to Sarwan at mid-off for 6 (184 for 9), before Thilan Thushara edged an accurate lifter, for Lara to complete his third catch of the morning.

The target was less than half than that achieved against Australia in Antigua in May, but it threatened to be a tense run-chase nonetheless, especially when Chris Gayle was unluckily adjudged lbw for 0 in Vaas's second over (1 for 1). But Sarwan began with a blaze of attacking strokes all around the ground, and Wavell Hinds joined him in a vital second-wicket partnership of 49, before being bowled, sweeping at Muralitharan's arm-ball, for 29 (50 for 1).

Nobody in world cricket, though, is better equipped than Lara to combat Muralitharan, and he stamped his authority on the contest by sweeping Murali's first ball for four, for the third innings running. It wasn't all one-way traffic however, and Murali might have pinned him lbw with a superb doosra, but Russell Tiffin reckoned that the ball was slipping down leg.

But Murali's support act was flagging, and Prabath Nissanka was treated especially brutally, conceding 64 runs in his eight overs. The end came in an absurd blizzard of boundaries, with the last 91 runs coming from 11 overs as Sarwan and Lara raced each other to the tape. It was a suitably upbeat finish to one of the most uplifting seasons that the Caribbean has enjoyed in many a year.