|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
March 8, 2009
As Chris Gayle limped off the Queen's Park Oval after pulling his hamstring reaching his 10th Test century, there was a sense that West Indies' grip on the series was leaving with him. But this team is made of sterner stuff and by the end of another bat-dominated day - at a conservative estimate the eighth in a row - the prize of a first series victory since 2004 was creeping slowly closer to the home side.
And the captain is willing to push the pain barrier for the benefit of his team - and it won't be the first time. At Cape Town on the tour of South Africa in 2007-08, West Indies were again defending a series lead when Gayle suffered a hamstring strain and came in at No. 6 in the second innings to hit 38 off 48 balls. It was a futile effort as South Africa won by seven wickets, but Gayle is more than willing to put his team first again.
"I don't know how bad it is, but right now, I'm feeling pretty decent," he said. "But I am not a doctor to decide. Tomorrow I will be doing a scan so we will know how bad it is - and see what happens. I will definitely be batting again, even if I am not needed I am going to bat again definitely.
There is some irony in that Gayle suffered the injury while sprinting a quick single. For most of his innings he barely broke out of a walk between the wickets, producing more than a passing semblance to Inzamam-ul-Haq in his prime. "It was just the last two strides I tore the muscle and felt the twinge. On 99 I just tried to put extra effort in that single, it was a vital one," he said. "I've been in this situation before, I don't want this to be a customary thing but hopefully I will be well."
Gayle came out of the dressing room to watch the closing stages of the final session and the efforts of his batsmen, particularly Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brendan Nash, could yet be a vindication - if not an absolute defence - of his approach to the game. The danger in playing for a draw from so early is that if it backfires the criticism will be harsh, but if West Indies' long batting order is still in occupation at tea on the fourth day the job will almost be done. Gayle, though, insists he is not just looking at the stalemate.
"I think we are in a pretty decent position to win this game once we can bat to tea tomorrow then we can put England under a bit of pressure and sure we can get a lead," he said. "We've avoided the follow-on, that was the first objective, but at the same time we still want to be positive. There is still a lot of time in the Test match so we can't take anything for granted. Now we have to get past tea tomorrow and then see what will happen."
Gayle expects England to throw everything at West Indies over the next two days, but is confident his team can withstand the pressure of securing their first series win over the visitors since 1998. "They don't have a choice, they have to do that in order to win the game. They might as well try something because if they lose 2-0 it is the same thing as 1-0 - they lose the series.
"They will have to take some chances and hopefully we don't create that opportunity where they get a sniff in. We just have to carry on and get the job done. We have to apply ourselves and don't feel relaxed and have the mentality of playing for a draw."
West Indies' tactics earlier in this match may not have won them many friends, but they may yet win them the series. If that proves the case Gayle will find a small place in the history books and the hamstring strain will be all worth it.