Last pair holds fort to secure a draw
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter
DateLine: 20th February 2009
West Indies' final pair of Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell blocked out the final 36 minutes of a magnificent Test match at the Antigua Recreation Ground, to secure the draw that maintained their 1-0 lead in the series, and revived the momentum. Chasing a target of 503, West Indies clung on to the close and with the light fading fast and 10 men piled around the bat England's spinner, Graeme Swann, teased and probed for an opening that simply refused to materialize. For England it was a shattering result - a draw that undoubtedly felt like a defeat, especially after the dominance they had enjoyed on the first two days.
England's bowlers poured heart and soul into their performance, not least the heroic Andrew Flintoff, who limped and grimaced through 12 overs in the day - five in the second session, six more in the third. There is no question that he will be flying home for treatment as soon as the results of his scan in Barbados are revealed. Flintoff bowled like a hero, but the day's conquering partnership was forged by two West Indian veterans. Both Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had recorded centuries on this ground in 2003 to help their side chase down a world-record 418 for 7 against Australia, and that indomitable mindset was fully in evidence again. After a rain delay of an hour and 15 minutes, the pair batted through the first 36 overs of the day to give their team a huge confidence boost. Sarwan, who finished with a superb 106, was the more forceful of the pair, and by adopting a positive attitude as he was able to withstand everything that England could muster. After resuming on 47 not out, he was compact and controlled at the crease, and determined not to give his innings away, as he had done with a wild slog on 94 in the first innings. Sure enough, he ground through the nineties, resisting temptation until he nudged a Anderson delivery through the gap at third man. Chanderpaul, meanwhile, dropped anchor as only he can. With the pitch offering little, England's bowlers plugged away responsibly on a good line and length, not least Steve Harmison, who seemed fully recovered from the bout of sickness. But for all their diligence, the real challenge for West Indies' overnight pairing was to survive the new ball, which became available midway through the second session. They were unable to do so. Broad, who has grown in stature (and arguably pace) on this tour, burst through Sarwan's defences with a brilliant fast straight delivery that kept just low enough to demolish the off stump, and then, after Chanderpaul had flapped a bouncer just wide of a diving Harmison at square leg, he came around the wicket and banged a perfect lifter off the edge and into Matt Prior's gloves.
That looked like being the crucial breakthrough. Broad dumped Nash on his backside with a wickedly accurate bouncer, before Swann pinned him lbw for 23 with a beauty that went straight on and rapped the front pad plumb in front of middle. Flintoff alternating between bouncers and yorkers, with a heavy splice-rattling stock ball to keep the batsmen honest had a vast shout for lbw against Denesh Ramdin on 9, but there was to be no way through. Anderson popped up with the partnership breaker as Jerome Taylor flicked airily at a leg-stump delivery for Bell to snaffle the opportunity at short midwicket. And Anderson struck again three overs later, when Ramdin, after gritting his teeth for 76 steadfast deliveries, produced the first genuine misjudgment of his innings and chopped a short but straight ball onto his stumps for 21. Sulieman Benn, using his 6'7" frame to fine effect, endured for 34 deliveries but Swann in the end got better of him.
That left West Indies' fortunes in the hands Powell and Edwards. Both men, however smothered Swann's variations, and staying in line to the quicks, especially Harmison, who was full, straight and threatening in a final four-over burst. Edwards, meanwhile, had seen it all before on this ground. In 2006, he and Corey Collymore had been left to negotiate what, at the time, were believed to have been the final 19 deliveries of the ARG's phenomenal Test history.