Chanderpaul Brilliance In Vain
Shivnarine Chanderpaul fashioned an innings of quite exceptional quality in this central Indian city yesterday but it was not enough to prevent defeat for the West Indies by 14 runs in the first of their four ODIs against India in the Pepsi Cup series.
His unbeaten 149 from 131 balls, with three sixes and 15 fours in all directions, was his seventh hundred in the shorter form of the game and his second in succession. But, like the one before, against Pakistan in Karachi five weeks ago, it was in vain.
Yet it stood out, even among many others on a day when batsmen thrived on a true pitch, fast outfield and in clear, warm sunshine to such an extent that they pummelled 16 sixes and 67 fours and amassed the highest run aggregate of any ODI played in India, 658 for 11 wickets.
It is rare for a player on the losing team to earn the Man-of-the-Match award. Here it was inevitable that the prize would be Chanderpaul’s, even set against a dashing 98, from 110 balls with three fours and 11 fours, by India’s returning former captain Saurav Ganguly that set the platform for India’s 338 for three.
Sent in by Brian Lara, India prospered throughout. Jerome Taylor’s opening over, that yielded 16, was an early hint of what was to follow. The tempo only subsided briefly for the remainder of the day, mainly in the mid-overs of both innings against the slow bowlers.
An opening stand of 144 from 24 overs between the left-handers Gautam Gambir and Ganguly, set India on their way. Gambir was the first of Chris Gayle’s two wickets, cutting the off-spinner’s third ball to point. Sachin Tendulkar, well below his best, was the second, lbw for 31 off 38 balls.
By then, India were 214 in the 37th over. When Ganguly was felled five runs later, two runs short of his 23rd ODI hundred by Dwayne Smith’s typically electric fielding, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and captain Rahul Dravid clouted seven sixes and seven fours between them in adding 119 off the last 11.5 overs.
Smith’s direct hit from cover to finish off Ganguly should have been followed by another run out for the fielding dynamo. But Gayle failed to gather his return at the bowler’s end from square-leg with Dhoni, then five, well short of his ground.
The miss proved decisive. The muscular wicket-keeper and Dravid proceeded to lash 66 off the last four overs to post India’s highest ODI total against the West Indies, equalling Australia’s 338 for five as the overall record.
Gayle and Marlon Samuels were the only bowlers able to restrain the rampant Indians with their brand of off-spin, even when yielding 104 from their combined 19 overs. Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar, pressed into service as the fifth bowler with his variety of off-breaks and leg-cutters, were to do the same for India.
The West Indies target was formidable but, on a ground noted for its high scores and in an age when Australia’s vice-captain Adam Gilchrist reasonably asserts that 400 will soon be the benchmark for 50 overs, not insurmountable.
Chanderpaul and Gayle, a study in contrasts all to the common factor of their left-handedness, immediately signalled that anything the Indian batsmen could do, so could they and their colleagues. Gayle, missed twice in the field, belted 10 fours in 52 off 46 balls in a partnership of 80 from 12.1 overs before he edged Harbhajan Singh’s off-break low to slip.
Runako Morton hadn’t a clue against Harbhajan’s doosra and was soon bowled. Marlon Samuels spent 60 balls over 40 in the middle overs as the required rate touched 10 runs an over.
When Lara belatedly arrived in the 34th over when Samuels was bowled swinging, a lot had to be done to get back on course. He immediately provided the necessary spark, to the scoring and to Chanderpaul. He hoisted both Tendulkar and Harbhajan for huge sixes, his re-energized partner took another off the fast bowler, Sreesanath, and their partnership of 96 from 7.2 overs left the requirement at exactly 100 off the last 10 overs with seven wickets intact.
The 30,000 or so packed into a stadium that had not hosted an international match since the West Indies were last in India four years ago – and winning an ODI on the back of Gayle’s 103 – became nervously stilled.
Lara’s dismissal off the third ball of the 41st over raised the roof again, especially as Tendulkar was the bowler. The wily home champion saw his West Indian counterpart advancing to launch another ball over the ropes, sent it wide and Dhoni completed the stumping. Lara’s 31 required only 23 balls and his dismissal was critical.
Dwayne Bravo busied himself with 17 off 11 balls but then edged Sreesanth to the ‘keeper.
Dwayne Smith already had an impact on the game with his fielding and his six overs but this was a situation made for his explosive batting – 80 to get from 38 balls. Once more, he muffed his lines, yorked, as he almost always is, third ball by Ajit Agarkar, It left Chanderpaul with too much to do. He scored 43 of the last 55 runs, including three successive fours off Sresanath and a six off Agarkar.
Twenty were required off the last over and no team has ever managed that in ODIs. Chanderpaul, by now thoroughly exhausted, could raise only five. It was a brave effort but not enough.
The second match in the series is in Cuttack, on the eastern coast, on Wednesday.