With construction workers on their starting blocks, ready to transform the Kensington Oval into a site worthy of hosting the 2007 World Cup final, West Indies gave the intimate old ground a rousing send-off, thoroughly outplaying a distracted and disorganised Pakistan side to complete victory inside four days. It was their first Test win in almost a year, and halted a humiliating run of four consecutive defeats at a venue that had previously been synonymous with Caribbean domination by intimidation. Despite the nostalgia, the poor attendances revealed a deep-seated disaffection. Those who did turn up, however, were treated to a taste of what it was like in the glory days, as fearsome fast bowling from Edwards wrecked Pakistan's first innings after another majestic Lara hundred lit up the ground on the opening day. It made him the sixth player to score a Test century against all nine possible opponents.
Even before the game began, the opposition was in disarray. Pakistan, already without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami for the whole tour, also lost Inzamam-ul-Haq - serving a one-match ban for dissent on the last day of the series against the Indians - Yousuf Youhana, who had returned home because his father was ill, and Shoaib Malik, penalised by the Pakistan Cricket Board for deliberately losing a domestic Twenty20 game. The loss of the two senior batsmen proved crippling, especially when Shahid Afridi and acting-captain Younis Khan fell out, apparently over Afridi's dissatisfaction at being sent in as an opener.
In spite of everything, Pakistan started well, reducing the hosts to 45 for three in the first hour. But Lara emphasised the chasm between himself and the rest with a masterful 130, dominating a 169-run stand for the fourth wicket in little more than 30 overs with the resolute Chanderpaul. Lara was mindful of the threat posed by Danish Kaneria - who, like him, had been rested from the one-day series - and never allowed him to settle, bringing up his 29th Test century from just 88 balls with consecutive straight sixes. To his credit, Kaneria persisted in inviting Lara to go after him, and eventually claimed his wicket, threading one through the gate as he advanced, bat raised, for yet another lofted drive. As usual, Lara's departure brought a feeling of vulnerability to the batting, but Chanderpaul held the innings together until just eight runs short of his hundred, carving Kaneria to cover, where he was caught by the debutant Bazid Khan, who was following his father Majid Khan and grandfather Jahangir Khan into Test cricket.
Pakistan needed a resolute first-innings effort - but instead crumbled to Edwards for 144 by the second afternoon. Generating speeds consistently in excess of 90mph with his slingy action, Edwards quickly despatched Afridi and Yasir Hameed, and returned after lunch to finish with five for 38, his third five-wicket haul in Tests. Chanderpaul decided not to enforce the follow-on, and took it upon himself to build on a commanding 201-run lead. His unbeaten 153 lifted his side to 371, with the aid of half-centuries by Gayle and Hinds and a threatening 48 from Lara. There had been much public sympathy for Chanderpaul's plight, as a man of few words and limited leadership experience thrust into the captaincy of a generally poor side by the festering contracts dispute. The acclaim from the few loyalists in the stands when he completed his 14th Test hundred was heartfelt.
Even more satisfying for the beleaguered leader, however, was the sight of Pakistan capitulating again late on the third day in the face of a notional target of 573. Edwards promptly removed Salman Butt, thanks to a sharp catch by Gayle at second slip, but then left the field during his second over with a hamstring strain, ending his involvement in the match and the series. Younis was run out for a duck, and when Hameed and Bazid also fell cheaply, a three-day finish looked likely.
But Edwards's absence gave Pakistan some breathing space, with Afridi and Asim Kamal prospering in a 115-run stand that lasted an hour into the fourth morning. Afridi, badly missed off Gayle by Devon Smith at long-off in just the second over of the day, smashed his third Test hundred - and second against West Indies - off just 78 balls. In all, he clubbed nine fours and six sixes, but his dismissal by Powell, going for yet another big hit, triggered the final slide. Gayle claimed the last four wickets to finish with five for 91 - a part-time slow bowler cleaning up the opposition at this former fast-bowling haven. It was not the way anyone expected to say goodbye to the old place.
Man of the Match: S. Chanderpaul.