West Indies defied expectation to stretch the fourth Test at Old Trafford into the final day with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, offered a life on 18, making his second half-century of the match in nearly five hours at the crease
West Indies defied expectation to stretch the fourth Test at Old Trafford into the final day with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, offered a life on 18, making his second half-century of the match in nearly five hours at the crease. He was supported by gutsy displays from Runako Morton and Dwayne Bravo, although Monty Panesar's three wickets kept England on course to claim the series with only a flimsy tail to follow.
The standard of cricket certainly went up a notch after the sights of the previous two days. Tossed-up freebies from part-time spinners, senior pace bowlers unable to hit the cut strip and top-order batsmen having headless swishes were replaced with the probing Panesar, a fired-up Steve Harmison and the rearguard efforts of West Indies' top order.
Most predictions at the start of the day were that the series would be done and dusted by the close. But West Indies put a previously unseen value on their wickets - the always gritty Chanderpaul excepted - and each time England broke through, and a collapse appeared imminent, another battling partnership was formed. Chanderpaul has become used to fighting in seemingly lost causes for West Indies - only his old colleague Brian Lara has scored more runs in defeat - but Runako Morton showed a hidden restraint in a stand of 75 during the afternoon session, then Chanderpaul was joined by Bravo in a more aggressive partnership of 88.
The irony is that England bowled far better in innings. Harmison's opening eight-over burst was his best of the summer - the number of leg-side deliveries could be counted on one hand - and he roughed up Chris Gayle before having him well caught at second slip by Paul Collingwood. It was Harmison's 500th first-class wicket, 50th Test wicket against West Indies, carrying him to 199 in his Test career; he was frustrated in his search for No. 200 and could have had it when Panesar dropped Chanderpaul at mid-on. The chance came low off a leading edge, but should have been taken and Chanderpaul didn't offer another opportunity.
Panesar, though, remained chirpy and threatening without being quite at his best. When he removed Devon Smith in the first session, another compact innings ending with a glove to short-leg, the scene was set for him to run through West Indies as he did against Pakistan last year. But his other two scalps for the day took plenty of work and plenty of appealing.
Morton's third Test fifty took 130 balls, and he added only four more before padding up once too often to Panesar . The umpires had been wary of the bounce Panesar extracted from the pitch, so Morton can consider himself slightly unfortunate. Chanderpaul used his pad well to combat Panesar, but the difficulties faced were highlighted when one delivery rolled along the pitch out of the footmarks, while others spat off a length. Although wickets didn't come in a rush, Michael Vaughan never lost control and tinkered with his field and bowling combinations at regular intervals. It won't show from the scorecard, but Ryan Sidebottom was again impressive, particularly in the afternoon and evening, as he swung both the old and new ball.
The most fascinating duel arrived after tea when Bravo took the attacking route. England thought they had him in Liam Plunkett's first over of the final session when Bravo cut hard and low to Collingwood at gully. But Bravo stood as Aleem Dar and Billy Bowden conferred then decided without the use of the third umpire that the catch hadn't been taken cleanly. Replays supported the call, another impressive decision on a testing day for the two umpires.
Panesar mixed up his line, switching from over and round the wicket, but was occasionally sucked into bowling too flat. However, he continued to cause problems from the footmarks and, the ball after pulling a long-hop to the boundary, Bravo lunged forward and inside-edged to Alastair Cook at short-leg.
Still England couldn't shift Chanderpaul who formed a third consecutive half-century stand. This time it was with Denesh Ramdin, who was dropped down the leg side by Matt Prior on 4, and a wayward late spell from Plunkett ticked a few more off the target. There isn't much to follow the two at the crease, but here's a thought West Indies can take to bed with them tonight. They hold the record for the highest chase in Test cricket - 418 for 7 against Australia at St Johns in 2002-03 - and Chanderpaul hit a century. From being down and out they are still fighting.