Another draw despite calculated gambles
In yet another tight finish the third Test was drawn, but not before a rollercoaster day tested weak hearts and tickled hyperactive ones. Brian Lara wiped out much of the criticism of his refusal to enforce the follow-on by setting India 392 off 88 overs - the best a captain could have done in the circumstances - and was given more than a few scares as India finished on 298 for 4, 94 short of the target.
Chasing scores of this kind happens only in the rarest of rare situations and yet with India's calculated assault on the target - built with the meticulousness and ingenuity of a mountaineer attempting a high-altitude Himalayan ascent - there was more than one moment when India were in the hunt.
The Indian chase was split into three distinct phases. First was the setting up of a platform - not unlike establishing base camp - through Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer. West Indies' generosity continued as Chris Gayle fluffed a sitter at slip and let Sehwag off on five. Cutting and punching for off-side boundaries, ducking and weaving against the short-pitched stuff, Sehwag, ably assisted by Jaffer, brought up the 50 partnership off 93 balls. Then the tempo was quickened and the century partnership came up, with the second 50 coming off only 55 balls. At lunch India were 109 for no loss from 23 overs, pretty much exactly what they would have liked.
Then, completely against the run of play, Sehwag, who had made 65, was trapped in front first ball after lunch by a Corey Collymore delivery that was full, straight and coming in just a touch. This, of course, meant that India had to rethink their plans. VVS Laxman, coming in to bat on the back of a first-innings century, eased himself in, never attempting any risks in the pursuit of quick runs. When Jaffer, who had timed the ball with the felicity you normally associate with Laxman, was dismissed, searching for a ball outside the off and edging to slip, India were 143 for 2, still a long way from their target.
The redoubtable Dravid joined his old pal at the crease, and the two began to construct a partnership that just about kept them in touch with the four-run-per-over mark - in mountaineering parlance like strategic reconnaissance from base camp, making short forays up, gauging what effort would be needed to attempt a final dash to the peak. The run-rate, to begin with, was not special, but once both batsmen had ensured that they got a good measure of a pitch that was playing as true as a fifth-day surface can be expected to, the scoring became easier.
The modus operandi was simple - pick off a boundary early in the over and then pick up ones and twos to bolster things. Somewhere into the final session, there was a shift. Laxman began to take a few more risks, looking to score off anything that was wide, and in anticlimactic fashion, fell. He slashed a full, wide ball from Pedro Collins to Lara at slip. Laxman had made 65 and his partnership with Dravid was worth an even 100.
Out walked Mahendra Singh Dhoni, seemingly with murder on his mind. He smashed Collins' first ball into the top tier of the stands at long-off and as easy as anything the field was spread out. With the field scattered Dravid and Dhoni were able to play out a passage of play relatively untested. Dhoni crashed another six several overs later, but when he was out, brilliantly caught by Gayle at cover, for 20 off 32 balls, India still needed 119 runs to win, in less than 17 overs, and the game, as a contest, was all but over.
Dravid, who once again had batted superbly, was unbeaten on 68 as India finished on 298 for 4 when play was called off. But if India had threatened to make a match of it with an imaginative effort on the final day, it was all set up by Lara's declaration. West Indies, thanks to a brisk 66 from Daren Ganga, went from an overnight 113 for 4 to 172 for 6. In all they had used just 32 overs in their second innings, and had batted with positive intent all through the early passage of play on the final day. It set things up well, but the result was no different from the first two Tests, a draw, and it's now all to play for in the final Test at Jamaica starting on Friday.
Dwayne Bravo c Sreesanth b Kumble 9 (120 for 5)
Holed out to long-on
Marlon Samuels st Dhoni b Harbhajan 20 (152 for 6)
Came down the pitch and was beaten by the doosra
Virender Sehwag lbw b Collymore 65 (109 for 1)
Missed a full, straight one that came in a touch
Wasim Jaffer c Gayle b Collins 54 (143 for 2)
Followed one to slip
VVS Laxman c Lara b Collins 63 (243 for 3)
Chased a wide ball and edged to slip
Mahendra Dhoni c Gayle b Taylor 20 (273 for 4)
Brilliantly caught diving at cover
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo