For a team who have often struggled to get their batting together, West Indies have done a more than adequate job of battling through fourth-innings pitfalls over the last year. They folded for 191 in the first Test against Australia in Kingston last month, but other than that capitulation, they have shown encouraging signs of getting their act together. Their latest display of resilience came at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium, when they batted through the final day to force a draw in the second Test. In their last five fourth innings, West Indies have notched up scores of 394, 315, 254 for 4, 191 and 266 for 5 - not bad for a side who no longer have Brian Lara. They've lost three of those games, but that's largely been due to lack of application in their first innings.
In Antigua, 205 of their 266 runs came from the two most experienced and skilled batsmen in the line-up. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan have become the mainstays of the batting since Lara's departure, and over the last year and a half both have risen to the challenge quite superbly. Chanderpaul was immense in 2007 and has begun 2008 in similar fashion, while Sarwan, despite having missed some games in 2007 due to injuries, has consistently been among the runs as well.
Importantly, both have handled the pressures of the fourth innings especially well. They were largely responsible for keeping Australia at bay in Antigua, and a couple of Tests earlier the numbers were remarkably similar for the two players and their team. Requiring 254 for victory against Sri Lanka in Port-of-Spain, Sarwan and Chanderpaul got together with West Indies wobbling at 73 for 3. Sarwan went on to score 102, Chanderpaul remained undefeated on 86, and West Indies rode to their target losing just four wickets. Four years ago these two engineered something even more stunning, scoring centuries in the largest successful run-chase in Tests, against Australia at St John's.
These exploits of Chanderpaul and Sarwan make them two of West Indies' best fourth-innings batsmen of all time (among those who scored at least 750 runs in the last innings). Gordon Greenidge is the only one to average more than 50, while Viv Richards is next in line, but Chanderpaul has moved up to third place and Sarwan is sixth. Greenidge and Sarwan are also the only two West Indian batsmen to score three hundreds in the fourth innings. In comparison, Lara's numbers are decidedly ordinary - in 45 innings he only managed nine 50-plus scores, and finished with an average of only 35.
The other interesting aspect is the number of runs Chanderpaul and Sarwan have already scored in fourth innings - Chanderpaul is only 166 shy of Lara's West Indies record, while Richards only batted 24 times, and scored 911 runs, in fourth innings in his entire career. It's an indication of how strong West Indies used to be, and how badly they've slumped over the last few years.
In fact, Chanderpaul and Sarwan are among the most successful fourth-innings batsmen in world cricket since 1990 (among batsmen with at least 1000 fourth-innings runs). Ricky Ponting is the only one to average more than 50 during this period; Chanderpaul slots in after him, Matthew Hayden and Rahul Dravid. Sarwan is a further four positions behind, with Chris Gayle sneaking into seventh place. Both have done much better than Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, who only has five 50-plus scores in 44 innings.
Most batsmen prefer playing in the first innings, when the pitch is at its truest, but that isn't the case with Sarwan: he averages just 34.95 in first innings of Tests, 44.46 in the second, 39.07 in the third, and 40.73 in the fourth. Tendulkar, by contrast, averages 74 in first innings, and Lara 70.17; clearly, both have done a much better job of setting up games for their teams than Sarwan has. Chanderpaul's first innings average of 58.76 is much better than Sarwan's too. (Click here for Sarwan's batting summary, and here for Chanderpaul's.)
The table below lists the percentage of fourth-innings team runs scored by specific batsmen, in matches featuring those players. Ponting heads the list again, which is hardly surprising considering how prolific he is and the fact that he bats at No. 3, which means he is quite likely to get an opportunity to bat. Dravid and Sarwan, two others who mostly bat at No. 3, are high up on the list as well, but Tendulkar, despite batting at No. 4 almost throughout his career, has only scored 12.58% of India's fourth-innings runs.
In matches involving both Chanderpaul and Sarwan, the two have scored a third of West Indies' total fourth-innings runs - 1586 out of 4770. Add Gayle to the mix, and the three have scored 53.66% of the team's last innings runs - 2156 out of 4018.
The nine times that Chanderpaul and Sarwan have batted together in the fourth innings, they've averaged a staggering 63.62 per partnership; and they have gone beyond a century stand every time they have topped 50. Lara and Sarwan have been as prolific, but surprisingly, Chanderpaul has struggled to stitch together stands in the fourth innings with Lara - in nine tries, the two have only aggregated 144, at a poor average of 18.
Taking 500 partnership runs as the cut-off since 1990, the Chanderpaul-Sarwan pair is also the third-most prolific, in terms of averages, for all fourth-innings pairs - Hayden-Ponting and Dravid-Ganguly are the only ones who average more.