West Indies find their Chanderpaul Mark 2
West Indies have nearly made it and the series is almost in the bag. Before this Test Chris Gayle said his team had one hand on the Wisden Trophy, but now they have one hand and four fingers. Barring a single-session collapse the home side are secure and the only team to have folded in a session this series are England.
The partnership that almost certainly secured the prize was a combination of the old and new of this West Indies team, a combination of someone who has been around through all the lows and batting collapses alongside someone who has added much needed grit and steel to this improving unit.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brendan Nash began their massive partnership mid-way through Sunday and it took England 82 overs - the best part of a day - to separate them. At times Chanderpaul was batting on one leg, suffering badly from his groin strain, but his concentration barely wavered. Batting is his life and finally his hours at the crease should be rewarded by success. That's why it was fitting that he scored an epic hundred in this game because he has so often battled against the tide in defeat.
Nash, on the other hand, has yet to experience a Test loss. Even though this is just his seventh match, that is a mark of West Indies' improvement and his maiden century was richly deserved. He has had a huge effect on the middle order since making his debut against New Zealand, bringing solidity to a line-up that not long ago fell like skittles.
Nash flirted outside off stump on 99 against a testing spell from James Anderson, but eventually reached his ton with a tuck for two off Monty Panesar. "It's been many years of hard work to finally get the opportunity to be there on 98 and [on] 99 I was very nervous," Nash said. "But I got there in the end so I'm very happy with that.
"Shivy and I had to work together and build a partnership," he added. "It's very easy to do with him, he likes to bat time and that's something I've learnt from him and hopefully will continue to do so in the future."
The previous home series West Indies played, against Australia, showed why they needed someone like Nash. In Kingston they collapsed from 260 for 4 to 312 all out, in Antigua it was 314 for 4 to 352 and in Barbados 168 for 4 to 216. In each of those three innings Chanderpaul was either the last-man out or not out as the lower order deserted him. What Nash has done is provide a buffer between the powerhouses of Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan and the previously fallible lower order.
There has been something of a trend recently of Australian left-handers making a mark in Tests. Across in Durban this week Phillip Hughes became the youngest batsman to make twin hundreds, and a few days earlier Marcus North marked his debut in Johannesburg with a crucial century. Their success has probably not gone unnoticed in the England camp given the summer ahead, but at the moment they have had plenty of problems with another Aussie left-hander.
Nash opted to leave his modest Queensland career behind and make use of Jamaican parents to qualify for West Indies. It's fair to say it is unlikely he would ever have earned a chance of the baggygreen, a reflection on the strength of Australia's batting resources compared to West Indies'. However, that isn't to suggest that he isn't a Test-quality batsman. So far his results suggest that he isn't out of place at the top level. A full judgement will have to wait until he has faced better attacks than New Zealand and this England set-up on flat pitches, but there is no doubting his determination to squeeze every last drop of talent out of himself.
He could almost be Chanderpaul's doppelganger. They are both left handers, both short men and both love to occupy the crease. But whereas Chanderpaul's style has evolved because of a realisation that for so long he was West Indies' lone hope, Nash has had to elevate himself from a first-class cricketer, who wasn't a permanent fixture in the Sheffield Shield, to a Test-match No. 6.
"He [Chanderpaul] makes the game look very simple and that gives you a bit of confidence at the other end. He doesn't look like he is going to get out so you can just play your game and go from there," he said. "I enjoy my fielding but I enjoy my batting as well so when I get the opportunity I like to stay our there as long as I can even if I'm not scoring runs
"If I'm doing a job for the team then that's what it is about and that's something I have built my game around. I'm not the most gifted player, naturally talented or free-flowing but I work with what I have and hopefully it works out on the day."
Today was one of those days when it worked to perfection and it has put West Indies on the brink. One more day of composure is all it needs and Nash has that quality in bucket loads.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo