Shivnarine, take a bow
23 Jun 2007
By: Zac Gelman
One of the things that makes cricket so special is its ability to bring out certain qualities of human nature like no other sports. Endurance, courage, stamina and concentration are traits that are sometimes revealed in certain individuals over the course of a Test match and series, that when they happen, the audience immediately know they have been privileged to see it.
It is no exaggeration to say that the West Indies Test team touring England were a rabble. In fact, the team has been barley Test standard for years, relying on Brian Lara to hold them together for over a decade. Now with Lara gone, cliches like sheep to the slaughter and sitting ducks were being thrown around with reckless abandon in description of this West Indies outfit.
And to be fair, as expected, they were horrible. They lost the series 3-0, a rained out draw saving them from the whitewash. Their bowling was wayward, their fielding was woeful and their batting collapsed regularly. In the face of arguably the second best test side, they buckled without a whisper. Well, all except for one man, the stubborn yet sublime Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Had it not been for 'Shiv', this may have been the most embarrassing series defeat in Test history. The series started off well for Chanderpaul as he top scored with a valiant 74 in the first Test at Lords. The match ultimately ended in a draw. Chanderpaul missed the second match with a bleeding knee, as his side and captain went down in dramatic fashion at Headingley.
Hostilities resumed for the third Test at Old Trafford. England put up a solid 370 batting first, West Indies replied with just 229 in which Chanderpaul top scored, again with a classy half century, after which a Cook inspired England responded with a second innings 313 to take the lead to a massive 455. It wasn't long before the Windies were on the ropes at 3/88, defeat looking all but certain.
Cue one of the great rearguard innings of all time. Chanderpaul wowed the crowds with his persistence and concentration. To him, his wicket was priceless and no English bowlers had the right to take it away from him. And they didn't. He left religiously. He put away the bad ball, he attacked when required and he batted and batted and batted.
Oblivious to the batsmen collapsing around him, Chanderpaul bought his side closer and closer to the score, one that would have bettered the West Indies previous highest fourth innings total to win a Test match. By stumps, Chanderpaul was standing on a magnificent 80 and the Windies dressing room dared to dream. However their mediocre batting couldn't stand up to England's less mediocre bowling and soon Chanderpaul had run out of partners, left stranded on 116 not out, just 60 runs short of the target. Nearly seven of focus and almost aggressive like concentration had come to an end. He hadn't saved the match, but he had single-handedly saved the West Indies from embarrassment and that was quite a feat in itself.
A predictable pattern followed the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street, a West Indies batting collapse, together with a superb Chanderpaul fight back. It was almost the cricketing version of Groundhog Day. 3/34 after losing the toss and being sent in and the West Indies were in trouble. Bailing them out yet again was, you guessed it, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. A more attacking innings, he hit everything that was there to be hit, he left everything that was there to be left and he soldiered on, again, as his team collapsed around him. By the time he had his 16th Test century and 7000th Test run, the West Indies were looking at a espectable first innings score, something earlier unthinkable.
Ultimately the West Indies would lose the match and Chanderpaul was finally dismissed in the second innings when forced to attack in the search for quick runs after being stranded with the number 11 batsman, Corey Collymore, but there is a telling statistic that was calculated after England finally took his precious wicket; this was the first time he'd been dismissed in nearly 18 hours.
There were quite a few players that had a good month, a great month even. Ryan Sidebottom proved he was not a one-trick Headingley pony and could hold his own in the England side in other conditions, Darren Sammy took eight wickets in his first test and Monty Panesar ran through batting line-ups at will. Some 7000 kilometres away, Shaun Pollock was showing all of India why he was picked as an only batsman for the Afro-Asia Cup, averaging 111.50 for Africa XI against Asia XI in the three match ODI series.
But none came even close in importance and magnitude of the efforts of the quite and unassuming Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who stood tall when all others failed. Shivnarine, take a bow.
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