Chanders, Samuels Hog Eden Gardens Spotlight
Fri, Nov 1, '02
A superbly disciplined display of batsmanship saw the West
Indies gain the ascendancy in the second test match at the Eden
West Indies began the day at 189/3, in the familiar situation of having to bat through most of the day if they were to stay in the match. The overnight batsmen, Gayle and Chanderpaul started off rather well, though it seemed that for the first time in the innings, Gayle was less than comfortable against Kumble, having more than one lbw appeal turned down when he opted to pad up to deliveries pitched perilously close to the stumps. Chanderpaul, on the other hand, wasted no time in trying to hit Harbhajan off his length with some very well timed shots through the onside.
After his magnificient partnership with Hinds yesterday, Gayle
hit just one cracking straight drive today before he got a delivery
from Kumble that bounced just a little more than he expected. The
ball took Gayle's glove and pad enroute to Sehwag at forward short
leg, and the first West Indian wicket of the day had fallen at 213.
Though he did not go on to get his century, Gayle could justifiably
feel proud of his effort here, under intense pressure and in
conditions that do not suit his style of batsmanship.
Carl Hooper joined Chanderpaul in what was expected to be the most important partnership of the innings. That Hooper is a phenomenal player of spin is common knowledge among Indian cricket followers, but the Hooper they saw today was not his usual flowing self. From the beginning, Ganguly set a field which made it difficult for him to play his lofted drives over the offside field, and Hooper took a long time to get going.
Chanderpaul at the other end, was solidity personified. His technique against spin, built around an ability and willingness to play the ball at the very last minute, made it impossible for either Harbhajan or Kumble to make any impression on him. At the same time, the placement of his nudges and his unforgiving shots against the bad ball ensured that he kept his score moving steadily.
When the new ball came due, Ganguly gave Srinath an over with the old ball before opting to take it. Hooper greeted Nehra with an explosive cover drive, but in the same over, found a delivery that pitched on middle and moved away sharply off the pitch. It was a delivery that a new batsman to the crease would probably have missed, but Hooper was well set by this time, and the ball took the outside edge. The lack of pace in this pitch meant that the catch would not have carried to first slip, where it was headed. But Patel, in a brilliant piece of wicket-keeping, dived in front of first slip and came up with an absolute stunner of a catch.
The combination of excellent delivery and great catch meant that West Indies had lost a very important wicket, and were now 255/5. Judging by the first two tests, it seemed certain that they would concede a significant lead to India in the first innings.
Marlon Samuels was the next batsman. If the situation of the match and the quality of the spinners he was facing were not difficult enough, the atmosphere at Eden Gardens must surely have made this the most testing situation of his career so far. With fieldsmen circling around the bat, Samuels and Chanderpaul negotiated the overs before lunch.
Lunch was taken with the West Indies at 261/5, with Chanderpaul on 42* and Samuels on 1*.
After the lunch interval, Chanderpaul opened out and took the attack to the Indian bowling, especially to Kumble. He hit three fours in Kumble's first over after lunch, a sweep, a pull and a sizzling straight drive. Ganguly persisted with Kumble, perhaps hoping that Chanderpaul would get over ambitious and play a false shot, but Chanderpaul's judgement in picking the delivery to attack was flawless. The next over saw Kumble going for a six and a four.
Samuels at the other end, hit Srinath for two boundaries, and looked increasingly confident. The time that Samuels has to play his shots, his sound technique and his calm, unflustered demeanour made one wonder why he was not played ahead of Ryan Hinds in the first two tests. In light of his performance in this innings, Samuels must be a fixture in the West Indian middle order.
Ganguly made frequent, almost frantic bowling changes, but nothing made an impression on the West Indian batsmen. Between lunch and tea, the West Indian score went from 261/5 to 363/5, with Chanderpaul taking just sixty deliveries to go from fifty to his sixth test hundred.
To a man, the West Indian team rose to greet Chanderpaul when he reached his century, as did the mammoth crowd at the Eden Gardens. Chanderpaul fell to his knees to kiss the turf, a gesture which should eloquently explain what this innings meant to him, as well as to the cause of his team. If his innings was invaluable in the context of this test, it's worth cannot be overstated in the context of the rebuilding of the West Indian team either.
At tea, Chanderpaul was on 107* and Samuels on 36*. Their partnership was already worth 108 runs.
The post tea session saw Samuels open up and play some lovely shots. In the course of this test match, one got the impression that not only Samuels, but all the other young West Indian batsmen had gained a better understanding of how to score runs against spin bowling in the conditions that prevail in India.
The placidity of the pitch was definitely a factor, but Hinds, Gayle and Samuels, especially the latter, all showed an ability to play the waiting game. The fact that the batsmen were willing to use the pads, or ignore any delivery that did not have to be played meant that the spinners could not fall into a groove. This meant that the spinners had to constantly adjust their line and length in an attempt to get the batsmen to play. The resulting loose deliveries were ruthlessly dispatched to the boundary.
Samuels growing confidence can be judged by the fact that he moved from his fifth test fifty to 89* at stumps with no less than eight boundaries. At stumps, West Indies had moved on to 446/5 with Chanderpaul on 136*.
The overall lead for the West Indies is 88, but with this pitch still being good for batting, and the outfield nothing short of lightning quick, the objective must be to extend that lead to the maximum extent possible. Test batting is not only about runs, but also about time, so the effort for the West Indies should be to bat till atleast an hour after lunch. A lead of about 150 should enable the West Indian bowlers to put the Indian batting under pressure. Batting last is never easy for any team, under any conditions, so the West Indies would do well to ensure that if they have to chase a target in the last innings, it should be a token chase.
Day Four at the Eden Gardens promises to be another riveting day. The Indian spinners will undoubtedly recoup and analyse what they could have done differently, but however they change their approach, it seems certain that they will not be confronted by a timid and shaky West Indian batting lineup.