Sarwan classic takes WI to 2-1

Setting up another classic finish, Ramnaresh Sarwan stroked a magnificent unbeaten hundred to carry the West Indies to victory over India in the third one-day international, in St. Kitts. It was an innings of the highest quality and a fitting commemoration of his 100th ODI match. He finished with a boundary through the covers off Sreesanth, scoring the winning runs with a ball to spare.

Sarwan was 115 not out when the crowd erupted in celebration of the victory, and the West Indies claimed a 2-1 series lead over India following another absorbing contest between the teams. Like its two predecessors, the game was marked by constant shifts of power and generally thrilling twists.

The former West Indies vice-captain entered the chase with his team in trouble. Quick wickets of makeshift opener, Marlon Samuels (11), then Runako Morton (0), meant the score wobbled from a solid 30/0 to 31/2. Sarwan began in top form and batted with total ease, stealing the spotlight from Chris Gayle in a partnership of 85. Crisp drives, intelligent running and deft touches were typical of his innings, and his closest chance was an inside edge off Irfan Pathan that beat the stumps and raced to the boundary for four runs.

When Rahul Dravid offered Ajit Agarkar the ball for a second spell, he was rewarded immediately with the wicket of Gayle for 40. It was a breakthrough that India desperately needed, more so as Harbhajan Singh consolidated with the wicket of Brian Lara (5) soon after.

The sudden turn of the West Indian chase pictured a score of 131/4 with 116 more needed. Chanderpaul joined his countryman and began slowly in adding stability once more. Two boundaries carried him to well into double figures and set the tone for what proved an exceptional innings in a pressure-ridden run chase.

Sarwan and Chanderpaul put on 106 runs for the sixth wicket and carried the game into the 49th over and to the verge of West Indian success. That penultimate over was entrusted to the previously disappointing Pathan, and set up a thrilling last gasp finish. It featured the wicket of Chanderpaul for 58, a close lbw shout against Dwayne Bravo, and a total of 6 runs. The West Indies then entered the final over needing 6 runs with 5 wickets in hand.

Still biased to the home team, the equation was quickly equalized by the run out of Dwayne Bravo (1). It came as a result of a mix-up at the start of the over. To his credit, Bravo sacrificed his wicket to ensure Sarwan remained at the crease. Suddenly the requirement was a more difficult 5 needed from 4 balls.

Throughout his innings he never looked rushed or out of control, and Sarwan was hardly prepared to start sweating at the most crucial avenue of the match. Baugh handed him the strike with a single, then a drive burst through the hands of Rahul Dravid in the covers. The misfield by the Indian captain swung the momentum firmly back with the West Indies, as the batsmen raced back for a second run.

Two runs were needed from the final two balls. Sreesanth charged in to bowl to Sarwan and the crowd could scarcely believe that yet another game would be decided at the very death. As if scripted, composure and class shone through once more at the completion of Sarwan’s 119-ball epic.

It was not much earlier that it seemed India would play the dominant role in the game, however. Behind the strokeplay of Sehwag, the Indians cruised to 210/3 after 37 overs. As the explosive potential of Dhoni failed to manifest, so did the contributions of India’s lower order. The West Indies fought back with great spirit, inflicting 3 run outs in a tumble of 6 wickets for 36 runs.

The essential dismissal of Virender Sehwag came about by a sharp yorker from Bravo, and the Indian opening batsman fell short of a deserved hundred by 4 runs. His 96 off 83 balls gave impetus to an otherwise tame innings, though Mohammed Kaif contributed a classy 61 off 89 balls. Next best was Suresh Raina with 26. The 19-year-old played with great promise after Bradshaw dismissed Dravid for a duck. However, he was undone by a straight delivery from the same bowler, the ball zipping between bat and pad.

A total of 246/9 hardly seemed enough on a pitch that India once threatened to score well over 300. But clever bowling by the West Indies and the apparent confusion of the tourists combined keep the game on even terms.

It was thoroughly the day of Ramnaresh Sarwan. Aside from his match-winning ton, his bowling figures of 1-0-1-1 were outstanding.

India 246-9 (50 overs)
Virender Sehwag 96, Mohammed Kaif 61
Ian Bradshaw 2-40, Dwayne Bravo 2-44

West Indies 248-6 (49.5 overs)
Ramnaresh Sarwan 115*, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 58, Chris Gayle 40
Ajit Agarkar 2-32, Harbhajan Singh 1-33

West Indies won by 4 wickets; lead the series 2-1

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Ramnaresh Sarwan – 115*, 1-0-1-1

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