Shiv saves the day

by Tony Cozier


A PAIR of left-handers, alike in body and soul but separated by 112 Tests of experience, came to the rescue of another faltering West Indies innings on the opening day of the second and final Test at McLean Park here yesterday.

One was, inevitably, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a batsman with an enforced familiarity with such salvage operations after nearly 15 years in the West Indies team and a recent appetite for runs comparable even to the revered Australian Don Bradman, the most avaricious of all.

The other was Brendan Nash, similarly diminutive in build and big on resolve, born in Australia, raised in the tough school of their state cricket and engaged in only his second Test for his adopted team and that of his fervently Jamaican parents.

Their partnership began eight minutes before lunch with the West Indies four wickets down for 74 in bright, warm sunshine and on an inviting pitch of no devil. They were not separated until three and a half hours, 54.1 overs and 153 runs later when Nash loosely drove a catch to short extra-cover off the second new ball with the close half-hour away 26 away from a deserving hundred.

Denesh Ramdin, a batsman bereft of all self-belief at present, fell in that time, raising his bat to a ball from Daniel Vettori that predictably hit the off and middle stumps so that the West Indies entered the second day on an unsatisfactory 258 for six.

That they reached there was entirely due to the two left-handers who share the intelligence to assess a situation and deal with it accordingly. Nash’s record in 31 matches for Queensland before moving to Jamaica just over a year ago is modest but the certainty of his concentration and his balance between attack and defence was as impressive as Chanderpaul’s.

His most productive stroke was the cut, off pace and spin. It brought him most of his 12 fours but there were also a couple of crisp drives down the ground and deflections off the hip. And he never looked like offering a chance.

Yet it was his remarkable colleague who remained unbeaten at the end, after 224 balls and four and a half hours, exactly 100 against his name to carry into the second day.

It is his 20th three-figure innings in Tests, pushing him above Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd on the all-time West Indian list and now behind only Brian Lara (34), Garry Sobers (26) and Viv Richards (24). It is the eighth time in his last nine innings he has reached 50 and above.

Five days earlier, Chanderpaul was engaged in another such restorative stand that started at the instability of 173 for six and was eventually worth 173. Then his unlikely partner was the direct opposite to himself and Nash, the dashing right-hander Jerome Taylor who repelled the New Zealanders, not with due diligence but with bold counter-attack in a maiden Test hundred from 97 balls.

Now, he and Nash were suitably careful in rebuilding the innings, taking 142 balls to raise their first 50 together. They gradually increased the tempo as the New Zealanders lost heart and control. Chanderpaul hoisted Vettori for two leg-side sixes and hooked O’Brien for another while Nash took advantage of anything short and wide of off-stump.

When they came together, the West Indies were wobbling and in danger of losing the advantage of the toss. The crisis was brought on by a couple of sharp deliveries from Ian O’Brien, the tall quick bowler, two dazzling slip catches, rank carelessness by a quality No.3 batsman whose mind is presently somewhere other than on the game and the ill timing of an opener simply out of his depth at this level.

In for just under an hour, captain Gayle was as assured as he was in his 74 in the previous Test. His five boundaries in 34 suggested a lengthy stay before O’Brien produced the ball of the day, his first. It cut sharply from leg to off and rose chest high. Gayle was late withdrawing in defence and walked off as the edge was safely held by the wicket-keeper.

Ramnaresh Sarwan replaced him to repeat his brief, frenetic innings of the first Test. He slapped his first ball for four, in the air just wide of cover, hooked his fourth for another boundary, survived a close-catch appeal from the probing off-spinner Jeetan Patel off whom he was soon caught behind attempting to cut a ball too close to him for the shot.

Sarwan quit as vice-captain soon after arrival in New Zealand with no more explanation than that it was for personal reasons. He scored 158 in the preparatory match against Auckland but has appeared distinctly distracted in the Tests. His early demise and the left-handed Sewnarine Chattergoon’s inactivity (72 agonising balls over 13) placed pressure on Xavier Marshall. Patel sent down maiden after maiden, a sequence broken by a Marshall off-drive for four. It was his last scoring shot. At the opposite end, he deflected the first ball he received from O’Brien high on the bat and Jesse Ryder snaffled a low catch at third slip.

Lunch was an over away when Chattergoon tried to break free from the handcuffs placed on him by a combination of the situation, tight bowling, sharp fielding and his own limitations. When he drove Daniel Vettori sweetly to the cover boundary, the wily left-arm spinner offered him more temptation, this time a little wider of off-stump. He fell for it and Jamie How, at second slip, lept high to haul in the resultant edge.New Zealand went to lunch understandably buoyant. Chanderpaul and Nash gradually silenced them.

Source: Nation News

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