Sarwan ton helps West Indies square series
An innings of exemplary application from Ramnaresh Sarwan and his partnership of 157 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul helped West Indies level the series
Ramnaresh Sarwan's century ensured that West Indies squared the series 1-1 in Trinidad
A match that swung between West Indies and Sri Lanka, each side clawing back into contention when the other had the upper hand, was decided by an innings of exemplary application from Ramnaresh Sarwan. His partnership of 157 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul - during which he scored a century - on the fourth day won the match for West Indies and levelled the series, ensuring Sri Lanka's quest for a maiden series triumph in the Caribbean remained unfulfilled. The six-wicket win was West Indies' first at the Queen's Park Oval since 2000.
A target of 253 over two days with ten wickets in hand wasn't the most daunting but only twice had teams chased higher totals
to win in Trinidad. Add to that the unpredictability of the West Indian batting order and the Chaminda Vaas-Muttiah Muralitharan factor and the task was anything but simple. The fourth day began with Sri Lanka taking early wickets before Sarwan started the recovery effort, single-handedly at first, later finding a steady partner in Chanderpaul, who remained unbeaten on 86 at the end.
Sri Lanka were banking on the wizardry of Muralitharan to run through the batting order but he was blunted by the patient approach of Sarwan and Chanderpaul. Not until the final stages did Sri Lanka's bowlers give it up but the pressure created by Vaas and Muralitharan was not sustained by the inexperienced support cast of Thilan Thushara and Ishara Amerasinghe, which allowed the batsmen to score steadily without having to look to hit boundaries.
It was fitting that Sarwan sealed victory with a hundred because he had scored three consecutive half-centuries in the series. West Indies needed a century from one of their batsmen and Sarwan did not throw it away after passing fifty. He started fluently, flicking and cutting Thushara to the boundary, and eventually hit him out of the attack by taking three fours - two straight drives and a leg glance - off his eighth over. Against Vaas, Sarwan stayed in his crease and gave himself time to drive the ball through the off side while his team-mates struggled on the front foot.
He was reprieved early in his innings by Tillakaratne Dilshan, who missed the stumps at the non-striker's end with Sarwan well short. Had he hit, one sensed that the chase would have been over, for apart from Sarwan's fluent innings the batsmen looked edgy. Even Chanderpaul had testing moments against Vaas, who caught the left-hander by surprise with a couple of deliveries that reared sharply off a good length.
The pair steered West Indies to 93 for 3 when rain forced the umpires to take an early lunch, giving Vaas and Muralitharan an hour to recharge. On resumption, they offered few scoring opportunities but Sarwan and Chanderpaul were up for the challenge. Chanderpaul concentrated on rotating the strike, often moving forward and across to work the ball through the leg side for singles and twos. He had a calming influence on Sarwan, who brought up his fifty with a slog-swept four followed by a cut towards point, and talked him through lapses in concentration such as a slash past the slips off Amerasinghe.
Sarwan used the cut effectively against the fast bowlers, forcing Mahela Jayawardene to put a fielder on the point boundary and successfully negotiated the threat posed by Muralitharan; he consistently worked him for ones and twos and occasionally moved out of his crease to hit him over midwicket or drive him straight down the ground. Sarwan was more positive as he moved towards his hundred, swatting Thushara twice from outside off stump to the wide mid-on boundary and the Trinidad crowd grew louder as they sensed a West Indian win.
A significant psychological barrier was crossed when Chanderpaul drove a full toss from Amerasinghe to the cover boundary to bring the runs required below 100. Another shower made the players take tea early, with Sarwan on 95, but when play resumed he reached his tenth Test hundred by sweeping Muralitharan to the long-leg boundary. By then, Chanderpaul was doing most of the scoring, repeatedly cutting and driving Vaas and Amerasinghe through the off side. Sarwan was eventually caught at bat-pad off Muralitharan for 102 but, with only 23 to get, the match was nearly won.
The game looked like it would be a lot closer during the morning session when West Indies' openers, Chris Gayle and Sewnarine Chattergoon, began tentatively. West Indies lost Gayle on 23 when he tried to slog Thushara. The ball moved away from him and the outside edge flew over point where Dilshan ran backwards to take the catch. Chattergoon fell in the next over, misjudging the line of a straighter one from Vaas and was trapped plumb in front.
At 24 for 2, Marlon Samuels joined Sarwan and they added 49, although Samuels looked out of sorts. He moved too far across his stumps against Vaas and survived several lbw shouts when the ball swung back and hit his pads. He eventually spooned a slower one to Malinda Warnapura at point. The match was in the balance at 73 for 3 but the three-hour partnership between Sarwan and Chanderpaul shut Sri Lanka out of the contest.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo