West Indies clinch thriller

West Indies pulled off a sensational one run victory over India, holding their nerve superbly at the death.

After Rahul Dravid won the toss and bowled, the Indian opening bowlers impressed from the off, both Agarkar and Pathan found control and swing. India’s first breakthrough was a short time coming. Ajit Agarkar found the edge of Chris Gayle’s bat, and the next over saw Runako Morton trapped lbw by Pathan. It could have got even worse; Agarkar had a very close lbw appeal against Brian Lara turned down by Billy Doctrove. Lara was also dropped by Suresh Raina at second slip off Agarkar, but was not able to hang around for much longer however, edging one to Dravid at first slip who held it comfortably.

The next batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul also did little to aid the West Indian cause, cutting Harbhajan Singh to point. West Indies needed a good partnership, and Sarwan and Marlon Samuels were able to provide one. They added 60 runs for the fifth wicket, to take them to 103-5. The runs came slowly; it took them 16 overs with Samuels scoring 19 off 53 balls. Sarwan was still able to be aggressive at times taking advantage of some poor bowling from Munaf Patel. With Yuvraj Singh bowling, Samuels came down the wicket, but was beaten and only managed an edge to Dhoni.

After Bravo was caught off Powar, failing to score, Carlton Baugh smashed four boundaries in a quick fire 21. He fell, however, going for a maximum and holing to midwicket, allowing Powar to claim his second scalp. This put even more pressure on the shoulders of the impressive Ramnaresh Sarwan, who needed good support from the tail. Bradshaw added 12, but when he was dismissed by Pathan, West Indies were 163-8 with 21 balls left.

This was when Sarwan realised the accelerator needed to be firmly pressed. The last 3 and a half overs would yield 35 runs, including 16 from one Pathan over. Sarwan was able to farm a lot of the strike, and neared 100 but was unable to reach it. Off the fourth ball of the last over, he took a single and gave Jerome Taylor the strike, hoping he could get a single and return the strike. However, Taylor tried to be too clever, he first thought about lapping the ball to fine leg, but the ball was wide outside off, so he tried to run it down to third man, but only succeeded in getting an edge to Dhoni and making a fool out of himself. From the last ball of the innings, Fidel Edwards scrambled a single, and Sarwan was left on 98 not out.

The total of 198 didn’t look to be enough for a strong Indian batting line-up, but West Indies still had a chance. Ian Bradshaw gave them a good start by claiming the wickets of both openers and Edwards added the wicket of Irfan Pathan to reduce India to 51-3. Mohammad Kaif hit an important half-century in the previous game, but made just four this time, pulling Taylor to substitute Dwayne Smith at square leg.

Yuvraj and Raina steadied things from 60-4, and shared a partnership of 64. Lara decided to bring on his spinners to tie the Indians down, and soon the required run rate was rising. Raina had a big let-off, charging Chris Gayle, but missing the ball, as did Carlton Baugh. He tried his luck against the other spinner, Marlon Samuels, and made contact but only found Chanderpaul at long on.

With Mahendra Dhoni now at the crease, the target would be an easy one, should he play as he can. Before attempting any big shots, a drive caught the inside edge and crashed into the stumps. In the next over Agarkar offered a simple return catch to Bradshaw, and India were now 134-7.

All hope was not lost for India, Yuvraj Singh looked to be in good form, and Ramesh Powar is a capable batsman. They added 43 to take them within 22 of the target, before Powar holed out to long off. It was vital from hereon in that Yuvraj had as much of the strike as possible, and he succeeded in this as he guided them towards the total.

With two overs to go, 12 runs were needed. Chris Gayle held his nerve throughout the penultimate over, conceding just one and taking the wicket of Harbhajan. This left 11 to get of the last six balls, to be bowled by Dwayne Bravo. Last man Munaf Patel scrambled a single to the keeper to give Yuvraj strike, and ten were needed from five balls.

Yuvraj, attempting a big one on the leg side edged the ball just past the despairing Baugh to lower the target to six. He followed this up with a more convincing shop, a fabulous cover drive that rocketed to the fence. Two runs were needed from three balls. Bravo had to keep his head, and did so magnificently. He bowled a slower ball yorker, beating the bat and crashing into the timber.

West Indies had secured a magnificent one run victory against the odds, and their celebrations were well-deserved. One has to feel for Yuvraj though, he scored a magnificent 93 but just couldn’t get his team across the line.

West Indies 198-9
Ramnaresh Sarwan 98*, Carlton Baugh 21
Irfan Pathan 3-45, Ajit Agarkar 2-25, Ramesh Powar 2-38

India 197 all out
Yuvraj Singh 93, Suresh Raina 27
Ian Bradshaw 3-33, Marlon Samuels 2-30, Jerome Taylor 2-49

West Indies win by one run

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Ramnaresh Sarwan

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