Daren Ganga, West Indies' defeated captain, said that his team would take a huge amount of confidence out of their performance in the third Test at Old Trafford. After being written off in the press following a humiliating innings-and-283-run defeat at Headingley last week, West Indies came within 60 runs of completing the highest fourth-innings run-chase in Test history, thanks to a magnificent unbeaten 116 from Shivnarine Chanderpaul that Ganga called "one of the very best Test-match hundreds that I have seen."
"Shiv played a brilliant innings," said Ganga. "While he was still out there we still had a chance, and it's just unfortunate we couldn't go all the way. A lot of people doubted we could get 455, but the manner in which we set things up yesterday gave us a wonderful opportunity to come here and get a victory. All credit to the guys and the manner in which they batted. "
West Indies had resumed overnight on 301 for 5, needing a further 155 to square the series. Chanderpaul at that stage was 81 not out, but by lunch he had a 15th Test century to his name, and the deficit had been cut to just 76. Ultimately, the task proved too great, as Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison shared all ten wickets in the innings, just as they had done in the corresponding fixture against Pakistan last summer.
"I'd put Monty in there with the top three spinners in the world," said Ganga, after Panesar had sealed his first ten-wicket haul in Tests, as well as his first Man-of-the-Match award. "He wins games and that's how I rate spinners, in terms of how they influence games. He's had a heavy influence in terms of Tests that England have won, and he's a top-class spinner."
Impressive though his team battled, Ganga's own form was not something to write home about. He made 5 and 0, twice falling lbw to straight deliveries from Harmison. "It's not easy, leading the team [in such circumstances], but the entire team showed a lot of character," said Ganga. "If we'd pulled off this victory it wouldn't have bothered me how many we scored individually. I think what matters is our team winning and what we do to contribute to that. I think we showed a lot of character. A lot of guys put their hands up, played with a lot of pride and a lot of purpose, and it's only going to augur well for the rest of the series.
"We showed a lot of character and strength, and there are a lot of positives from this game that we are going to take to that next Test match," said Ganga. "After the loss at Headingley, we were written off in this series, but before this Test we talked about processes. There were little points where we faltered and that cost us in the end, but these are things we are going to learn from. We've got a lot of confidence to take to Durham."
The contrast between the two performances could hardly have been more stark, although Ganga offered a plausible explanation. "The conditions in Headingley weren't something we were accustomed to," he said. "They were true English conditions, so cold and swinging. Here it didn't swing that much and it was more like Caribbean weather out there. We were working to a plan, we knew where we had gone wrong and we were trying our best not to make the same mistakes."
As for Chanderpaul, he was disappointed but proud to have taken West Indies so close to a historic win. "The senior players have responsibilities and have to lead the way," he said. "We've got a pretty good team with lots of potential, but the guys are still young and need some time to mature. I think when we get that right, we'll start winning some games."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo