A mountain too high
If it was ever to be scaled, the mountain peak that was West Indies' goal at Kensington Oval yesterday required at least one "big hundred," as Chris Gayle succinctly put it. Two would have been preferable. There was none, and, for all the brave effort in getting as close as 87 runs with one main batsman hobbled by a seriously damaged ankle, 475 was always going to be out of reach.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were the three-figure men in West Indies' record 418 for 7 at the obliging Antigua Recreation Ground in the final Test the last time Australia were in the West Indies, four years ago. In contrast, the major contribution to West Indies' effort at Kensington Oval was Xavier Marshall's 85.
Sarwan and Chanderpaul, along with Gayle, were the only survivors from the memorable match. Both figured once more as the keys to an unlikely chase. They brought runs and confidence into the match and the experience of having done it before against the same opposition. Chanderpaul had something even more vital, concentration and determination.
They had also combined to win the Queen's Park Test against Sri Lanka in April and to draw the Antigua Test in this series two weeks earlier. But it was a bit much to expect them to carry the load every time.
Sarwan's error in going back to Michael Clarke's arm ball on the previous afternoon ended his involvement, but the presence of Chanderpaul on resumption and, as those responsible must have noted, the reduced prices, brought out the highest attendance of the match.
Chanderpual was again in fixed mode, observing what should be the first maxim of all batsmen: "don't get out." He and Dwayne Bravo, rattled by Brett Lee's fearsome bouncer barrage but ever quick to counter-attack, batted through the first hour and 40 minutes, carried their partnership to 122, the total past 300, and reduced the deficit to 172. With every run, optimism grew of a miracle in the making. In the space of three balls, it was shattered. First Bravo, and then Chanderpaul, were gone and so were the hopes.
The manner of Bravo's dismissal was an anti-climax. He had taken to the offerings of Beau Casson with relish, hoisting him for three sweet sixes and deliberately unsettling him. With the new ball due, Casson went from over to round the wicket and, in spite of the pasting, placed a silly point under Bravo's nose. Almost instantly, an over-cautious defensive prod popped a catch into the fielder's hands. It was the crucial break.
Ricky Ponting took the new ball and Stuart Clark's second delivery pinned Chanderpaul on the backfoot. With Clark's height, the hardness of the ball and the bounce in the pitch, it looked to be too high for an lbw verdict. Hawk-Eye confirmed the naked eye's first impression, but umpire Mark Benson's decision was swift and decisive. It would hardly have changed the outcome for only the fragile tail and the injured Sewnarine Chattergoon, with a runner, remained to be Chanderpaul's partners.
Where the match was lost was in the first innings, when the batting could not capitalise on dismissing Australia for 251. It was then, as much as now, that a "big hundred" was needed. The truth is that, at present, Sarwan and Chanderpaul are the only ones capable.