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Australia are in match-winning mode but one must not forget the fight that West Indies have offered, writes Tony Cozier
June 15, 2008
It was midway through a blazing hot day. The two opening batsmen, one past his hundred, the other just a few runs away from his second in succession, had accumulated a partnership of over 200. The pitch had lost much its pace and bounce so that bowlers' work was appreciably harder than when they made the ball fly past evading heads and, occasionally, on to protective helmets during the two modest first innings.
As always, Kensington was at its best for batting on this third afternoon and Phil Jaques and Simon Katich were systematically grinding the West Indies out of a match that had been evenly balanced only 24 hours earlier. Immediately after lunch, there was a hush of concern around the ground as Sewnarine Chattergoon, a recent West Indies' addition, was stretchered off the ground to a waiting ambulance, his right ankle seriously strained after sliding along the grass attempting to save a boundary.
It was a juncture when the hopelessness of the situation is usually reflected in the body language of the fielding team, especially one to which despair has become such a customary companion. Repeatedly in recent times, the West Indies have wilted under such pressure.
Not now. A clutch of animated fielders, substitutes Darren Sammy and Runako Morton prominent among them, clapped and shouted encouragement. As Fidel Edwards, always ready for a challenge, started a new spell, the on-field energy was transmitted to the crowd in the Hall and Griffith and Greenidge and Haynes Stands on the western side.
As Edwards charged in, all passion and pace, as if the West Indies were on the verge of victory, those beyond the boundary caught the spirit of those on it. Decibel levels rose with every delivery, every bouncer triggered a roar. The mood seemed momentarily lost on Daren Powell. When he casually used his boot to concede a boundary off Edwards, the bowler reacted with Bajan vernacular familiar to slacking schoolboys. The crowd was equally vexed and vociferous.
The upshot to such dynamism was a wicket, Jacques, unsettled, edging a catch to Denesh Ramdin off Edwards. It was deserving reward and typified the new West Indies spirit that has been evident for some time. The period passed but not the effort. Even as Australia continued to relentlessly pile on the runs, they were never allowed to intimidate as they have so repeatedly done in their decade of dominance.
No one had more reason to be distressed during the long day than Sulieman Benn, the beanpole left-arm spinner in his second Test. As everyone in his trade knows, patience is the prime virtue. His debut Test against Sri Lanka in March underscored the point. He went 44 overs before claiming his first wicket. Here he endured two missed catches and several close shaves before success finally came his way with Mike Hussey's scalp in his 35th over.
In one span of seven overs, he and Powell kept Katich, already past his hundred, and Ricky Ponting down to a solitary run. The prize for such persistence was Ponting's wicket, an overdue triumph for Powell. With two days remaining, Australia are in match-winning mode. But the West Indies have fought them all the way.
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala