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March 8, 2009
West Indies 349 for 4 (Nash 70*, Chanderpaul 52*) trail England 546 for 6 (Collingwood 161, Strauss 142, Prior 131*) by 197 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Though the small matter of 14 years and 112 Tests separate the careers of Chanderpaul and Nash, the similarities between the two are striking. Both left-handed, and both possessing temperaments that could freeze the Caribbean Sea, they nudged and prodded England's bowlers to distraction for three sapping hours, having come together midway through the afternoon session with the scoreline an unflattering 203 for 4, and with Gayle already lined up for an MRI scan after pulling up lame moments after completing his 10th Test century with a rash single to midwicket.
Chanderpaul himself is not in the rudest of health - he tweaked his groin while fielding on the second day, and hobbled to the middle as Gayle departed in the other direction. But he made light of his injury by setting himself to occupy the crease first and foremost, and run as an afterthought - 29 jogged singles formed the backbone of his innings, although he did rack up a rare two to fine leg to bring up his 73rd score of fifty or more in Test cricket.
Relatively speaking, Nash was more expansive, cracking 12 fours in 167 balls, including an expert uppercut over third man off Amjad Khan, to bring up his fifty in the third over against the new ball. All but the last of those boundaries came in the arc from third man to cover, as he dealt exclusively in width, flailing with precision as England over-reached in search of that killer delivery. He had one massive let-off on 24, when Monty Panesar rapped him on the pads as he sized up a pull, but with both of England's referrals wasted on the second evening, there was no recourse to video evidence. Nor was there much likelihood of any favours from the umpire, Russell Tiffin, who was driven to distraction by Panesar's at times idiotic appeals.
Though there was very little turn on offer, Panesar was undoubtedly the pick of England's bowlers on his return to the side. He showed confidence and variety in equal measures, regularly tossing the ball up and even unveiling a rare arm-ball. Having dismissed Devon Smith in his first over of the innings, Panesar claimed his second scalp in the afternoon when the debutant Lendl Simmons fell lbw for a diligent 24 from 79 balls, and he ought to have had the prize scalp of Ramnaresh Sarwan as well, only for Paul Collingwood at slip to shell a sitter when Sarwan - who passed 600 runs for the series with his first scoring stroke - had managed only 12 from 28 balls.
Instead the honour of Sarwan's wicket went to the debutant Amjad. His four-over burst on the second evening had displayed raw pace and nerves in equal measure, but this time he got his line right straightaway, and Sarwan was pinned in front of middle by a fourth-ball outswinger, a decision so plumb that Gayle at the non-striker's end advised his team-mate not to waste a referral.
For half an hour, Amjad's approach could not be faulted, as he pushed 90mph on occasions while maintaining a willingness to experiment on an infamously unresponsive pitch, and he forced Simmons, who made 282 against England's bowlers in St Kitts last month, to wait for 23 deliveries for his first run in Test cricket. But then, almost without warning, Amjad's accuracy deserted him. No-balls and leg-side full-tosses flooded into his repertoire, as Matt Prior behind the stumps was made to leap one way then the next. By the close, England had conceded an extraordinary 61 extras, the most ever gifted to West Indies in an innings. Among these were 30 byes, including four in the penultimate over of the day that took them past the follow-on mark. Prior, to his embarrassment, is the only keeper to have conceded that tally twice.
The ease of West Indies' late-evening progress was a vindication for Gayle, who had much to prove after his controversial tactics in the field on the first two days. By rights he should still have been out there himself, for up until the moment of his injury, he was once again reprising the frill-free side of his game that surfaced to such match-changing effect in Jamaica last month. Having blazed along to 49 from 65 balls overnight, he was a transformed character upon the resumption, waiting a further 11 deliveries to reach his fifty, and a full 18 overs before adding to his eight boundaries. His innings was a masterclass of subdued diligence, but then came his injury, and suddenly West Indies were looking vulnerable.
The injury occurred during a hectic passage of play which began with a casual clip off the pads against Stuart Broad. Owais Shah at midwicket misfielded badly, and Gayle, on 99, attempted to take advantage. Within seconds he knew he had made a bad error of judgement and had Shah's subsequent shy hit the stumps, it would have beaten Gayle's stretch for the crease by a matter of inches. But though he survived, his celebrations were muted in the extreme, as he slumped to his knees and beckoned for help. After lengthy treatment on the outfield he was helped back to the pavilion, having led from the front with 10 fours and two sixes in a 161-ball innings.
But West Indies have not and surely will not buckle in this series. There is too much at stake for them after 15 barren series, and the discipline shown by Chanderpaul and his acolyte Nash sapped every ounce of energy from England's fielders. James Anderson, suffering from a stomach upset, was below-par, while Graeme Swann was comfortably outbowled by Panesar, as doubts once again surfaced about his troublesome elbow. By the close West Indies were well set to emulate their game-breaking performance at Bridgetown last month, as England found themselves in a familiarly futile situation, and still searching for a combination that can deliver 10 wickets in an innings, let alone 20 wickets in a match.
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala