At Kingston, June 4, 5, 6, 7, 2004. West Indies won by an innings and 99 runs. Toss: Bangladesh.
Before the game, Lara dramatically raised the stakes by promising to step down as captain if West Indies failed to win. Yet his pledge was never really in danger of being tested, even on a placid Sabina Park pitch. Bangladesh's lower order for once failed to produce one of the gutsy fightbacks that characterised their tour, and they collapsed spectacularly to an innings defeat early on the fourth afternoon.
Even before the collapse it would have taken something sensational - or rain-assisted - to save them. When West Indies declared, after tea on the third day, they had a commanding first-innings lead of 275, based on a monumental 261 not out from Sarwan and fluent centuries by Lara and Chanderpaul. Some wondered whether Sarwan should have been allowed to continue; Lara's determination to get the win made that unlikely. In terms of the match it proved the right decision: on the third evening, Bangladesh slipped to 34 for three.
On the overcast fourth morning, the slip was briefly halted but then became a landslide. Habibul Bashar and Manjural Islam Rana added 120 for the fourth wicket, defying an attack that was more controlled than in St Lucia but still unthreatening, until shortly before lunch. Then the dismissal of Rana, cutting to Lara at backward point, triggered a sensational collapse. Habibul, whose 77 underlined him as a player of quality, was lbw to Collins next ball, and with him went the Bangladeshi resistance. A series of loose shots suggested the lower order had exhausted their appetite for a fight, and the last seven wickets fell for 22. They were scattered primarily by Collins, who finished with six for 53 in the innings, nine for 117 in the match. It seemed inevitable he would be given a chance to take ten but, ever one to defy the obvious, Lara tossed the ball after lunch to Sarwan. The vice-captain obliged, Lara himself leaping high at short mid-wicket to take the catch, and with it a 1-0 series win. Lara's countenance had been far less sunny during Bangladesh's first innings, as West Indies endured yet another opposition rally, from 97 for five to an eventual 284 all out on the second morning. The collapse had begun right at the start when Hannan Sarkar was out to the very first ball for the second Test running. This gave him the share of a strange world record, held by Sunil Gavaskar, the only other batsman to be dismissed three times off the first ball of a Test. No one else had fallen this way more than once; Collins was Sarkar's nemesis on all three occasions. The top-scorer was Tapash Baisya, with 48 from No. 10. On his Test comeback from a bad back injury, the off-spinning all-rounder Banks maintained control, took four wickets and pressed the case, yet again, for a specialist spinner in West Indies' attack.
However, Bangladesh's irksome resistance only awakened Lara. The beleaguered captain made 120, equalling Sir Garfield Sobers's West Indian record of 26 Test centuries, in the commanding manner of a man who had thrown down the gauntlet to his team and himself. And when Lara finished, Sarwan and Chanderpaul just kept going, adding 262 in an unbroken stand. As so often in his decade of Test matches, Chanderpaul was content to lend support, quietly accumulating his tenth Test hundred. Meanwhile, Sarwan made the most of a life on 21 and reached 261, in 573 minutes and 402 deliveries, with 32 fours. He did not flay the ordinary-looking Bangladeshi bowlers, but suffocated them softly with his fluent strokes either side of the wicket. The innings restored his fragile self-confidence (after he had averaged 27.42 against England) and gave West Indies the rare recent experience of an impregnable position, from which they successfully pushed for victory.
After a similar Sabina Park win a year before, which clinched the series against Sri Lanka, Lara's outpourings had been optimistic: "We are working towards a team that is going to do well." But heavy losses in South Africa and at home to England had made that prediction appear decidedly foolish. This time, he studiously avoided fuelling great expectations for campaigns ahead.
Man of the Match: R. R. Sarwan. Man of the Series: R. R. Sarwan.