Another Shivnarine Chanderpaul weekend classic kept the West Indies afloat as the tourists fought back superbly at Lord’s, writes Phil Walker.
The great enigma fidgeted, his owlish eyes on super-alert, like an old sentry guard pulling the graveyard shift. The Saturday night lights at Lord’s had taken full effect, drawing shadows on the turf over the West Indies’ juvenile second innings, which Chanderpaul had been invited to steady immediately after tea.
West Indies were then 36-3 – still 119 runs shy of making England bat again. For much of the third day the West Indians had scrapped jauntily, but a depressed air had moved in as three miserably cheap wickets fell in 10 balls just before tea. Lord’s on Saturday is a festival but it needs a contest too, and a blameless nick-off (Barath), a look-away-now hook shot (Powell) and a run out to shame an eight-year-old (Bravo on Edwards) had conspired to suck the fizz from many a tea-time flute of bubbly.
Soon enough after tea it was 65-4, Bravo misreading an arm-ball from Graeme Swann, and the wicket brought in Marlon Samuels, the 31-year-old with 38 Tests over 12 years, two centuries, an average of 30, and as much talent squandered as other players have in abundance. We all feared the worst.
Four hours of slow-heartbeat cricket later, Samuels and Chanderpaul walked off for some Sunday lunch having added 147 undefeated runs. In the baby-steps culture of Darren Sammy’s painfully green team in which their top four has 45 Test caps between them, this was a pretty big deal.
Samuels welded grit with class. As an A* student of the Carl Hooper School of Languid Underachievement, he’s mastered the on-the-move soft-hand dab, the punched back-foot drive, and the stiff-legged flick through midwicket. He hit Swann powerfully down the ground, rarely said a word, smiled benignly and left it well until half-hour after lunch, when the new ball drew him fatally out to give Stuart Broad his ninth wicket. His 86 would probably not affect the result; but it would add an extra layer of evidence that this West Indies do not go gently after all. With Viv, Clive, Mikey and all the other apostles peering down from the Mound Stand, this felt like a huge contribution.
Still, with Samuels gone the mind ambled back to Chanderpaul – inscrutable, anti-charismatic, hilariously unmoved Chanderpaul. With Shiv, the hours just disappear. It sure takes a peculiar kind of icon to hide so easily in plain sight. What does he think, if anything? He’s sat on his bat through 69 Test defeats from 140, becoming the ninth highest runscorer in the game, and still no one knows what the hell goes on inside that outsized helmet. No other cricketer has lost as many Test matches. Is he immune? Has he just seen too much to care? Have the accumulated false dawns drawn such a pall over his spirit that the cocoon in which he bats detaches him from the regular traumas taking place at the other end? Is he selfish? And does he need to be in order to survive? Who can say – he certainly won’t.
By mid-afternoon England had all but given up on him. Even those so-called ‘moral victories’ when, say, he prods at a Broad off cutter, had ceased to carry any moral dimension at all – unless we consider the existential assertion of the individual above all else. But then, just like that! To his 425th ball of the match: a regulation Swann off break, a sweep (the spry old dasher…), a slap on the knee roll and a simple leg-before. Shiv, shifted.
Broad then took over in the evening session. Seven wickets in the first innings, and now another four in the second. With a century already registered on the honours board (against Pakistan in 2010), he became just the fourth man in the Test history of Lord’s to also claim a 10-wicket match haul.
But though Broad is the obvious man of a match that England will still likely win, for two days the West Indians have scrapped beautifully, showing great fight in their undergraduate ranks to match their talent. Over the last 12 months, teams have not made 300 against England in 15 of 21 Tests played. Here they have grafted to 345, leaving England to chase 191 on the final day, and with Andrew Strauss and Jimmy Anderson already gone, suddenly nothing is given. There is still only one likely winner, for this West Indies team still reminds us of the hopeful England of a few years ago, playing against the slickly oiled England of today. But what a fightback. And, hell, you never know…
Click here for Ed Kemp’s reflections on Andrew Strauss’s comeback ton