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The Electronic Telegraph 3rd Test: India v West Indies, Match Report
Geoffrey Dean - 27-31 March 1997

Day 1: Prasad pitches into West Indies

A Series that had fallen into a pitch-induced coma after the first two drawn Tests came to life on the opening day of the third Test at Kensington Oval. Not one of the last 15 Tests here has been drawn, and unless the weather intervenes, this one will not be either. The pitch will see to that.

Coated with a thick growth of grass that would be considered generous in England - but for the Caribbean is positively luxuriant - the wicket has been prepared for a positive result. By tea yesterday, West Indies had struggled to 144 for five after predictably being put in.

It could have been a lot worse, particularly as India dismissed both openers in the first hour. There was a welter of playing and missing, particularly against Venkatesh Prasad, who was outstanding.

Prasad removed Sherwin Campbell with his 11th ball, a leg-cutter that was edged to second slip. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was soon being beaten regularly outside off stump, and offered a difficult return chance to Prasad when just four.

The Guyanese built upon his good fortune to play the adhesive innings required. Moving well across his stumps to try to counter regular seam movement and extra bounce, he reached his 14th Test fifty just before tea.

At times his innings survived on little more than a whim and a prayer, but its value cannot be understated. India tried 7-2 fields to him and a wide-of-off stump line, but he could not be frustrated into making a mistake.

Brian Lara, captain in the absence of the injured Courtney Walsh, played with all the responsibility to be expected of one leading his country for the first time but he could nothing about another superb leg-cutter from Prasad that was edged to first slip.

Carl Hooper fell after three glorious boundaries to a wide long hop that bounced. Nor did Roland Holder last long before chasing foolishly at a widish ball to be caught at third slip.

Day 2: Chanderpaul strides on to unbeaten 137

Few pitch invasions at any Test match can have been as emotive as the one prompted by Shivnarine Chanderpaul when, after passing 50 13 times, he reached his maiden Test hundred against India on Thursday.

The invasion force of several hundred held up play for five minutes. One supporter lay on his back on the square kicking his legs and waving his arms in delight. A little girl wandered around. The Indian players just sat down and watched.

At least half the invaders were Trinidadian, members of the Trini Posse, a group of cricket supporters well known in the Caribbean. International notoriety could soon follow, fuelled by TWI's excellent television coverage of the series that is being beamed around the world.

Numerous close-ups of the party-loving Posse are being regularly shown, their members side by side with the Guinness Posse, their much smaller Bajan counterpart.

The Trini Posse are the West Indies' answer to England's Barmy Army, who give fanatical and noisy support on winter tours. Both groups are hard-drinking and well-behaved, and sport team T-shirts.

The Posse have yet to travel outside the Caribbean, but are better organised. They have their own stand at their home ground, the Queen's Park Oval, and receive sponsorship for their annual visit to Barbados for the Bridgetown Test.

This consists of 60 cases of beer, donated by the Carib brewery in Trinidad, numerous bottles of rum from Fernandes and spirits from Geddes and Grant. All are drunk at Kensington.

The England Test of 1990 was their first at Kensington. In 1992, when the Bajan public boycotted the inaugural Test against South Africa, the Trini Posse were conspicuous among empty stands with their red, black and white Trinidadian flags and drinks constantly in hand. The Bajan press gave them their name, and it has stuck.

``We really do love our cricket,'' says one of the Posse's co-founders, Nigel Camacho, like many, a white Trinidadian, although there is complete racial cross-section.

Camacho is a friend of Brian Lara's and had to respond to an emergency call from Lara, who had forgotten to bring his helmet to Barbados. Camacho flew over with it and came to Lara's rescue again when the two captains were tossing up. Lara had forgotten to bring a coin, but Camacho had wandered out on to the square and had some change with him.

The same lack of security greatly facilitated the pitch invasion on Thursday. The Trini Posse, occupying the grass area in front of the 3 Ws Stand, had only to hop over a flimsy boundary fence to race out to the middle. They poured over, several brandishing their national flags.

Camacho takes up the story: ``We just wanted Chanderpaul to get his hundred so bad. We feel like he's one of us.

``It all started when he had that big partnership with Brian to help him make his 375 against England. When Brian came back home for his motorcade through Port of Spain, Chanderpaul was right by his side. We just took him to our hearts. Trinis and Guyanese also have a close empathy.''

Chanderpaul's father's presence in the Posse at Kensington a year ago against New Zealand when his son made his previous highest Test score of 82 further endeared the 22-year-old Guyanese to the Posse. They had been disappointed then at Chanderpaul's failure to get his hundred.

This time, the excitement was too much and, with inhibitions long suppressed by a full day's free drinking, the Posse launched an invasion that will go down in cricketing folklore.

Yesterday morning, the Posse were back in full force and full voice. Chanderpaul was again applauded riotously as he progressed to an unbeaten 137.

And when Venkata Laxman was bowled neck and crop by a beauty from Curtly Ambrose as India began their reply, the Posse erupted.

Day 3: Bishop finds his rhythm to give West Indies hope

Indian hopes of a significant first-innings lead in the third Test were scuppered by some top-class West Indian fast bowling yesterday. The visitors lost their last seven wickets for just 66 runs after resuming on 249 for three.

West Indies cleared the deficit of 21 by tea yesterday, but lost Stuart Williams, who played on, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who completely misjudged the length of a ball he tried to pull.

The transformation in the West Indies' bowling could not have been more complete from the day before when Sachin Tendulkar's 92 off 146 balls had gained the initiative. Fast bowlers are sometimes at a loss to explain why they bowl badly one day and well the next. Rhythm, so often the key, must have been a problem here because of a spate of no-balls with Curtly Ambrose being the worst affected.

Franklyn Rose and Mervyn Dillon betrayed their inexperience by bowling too short, excited no doubt by a pitch of rare grassiness for the Caribbean. Both were lectured before play yesterday by a stern Michael Holding.

Playing the key part in West Indies' fightback was Ian Bishop. Unlucky on Saturday when he constantly beat the bat, his spell yesterday morning of 12-4-15-2, which spanned the entire session, was outstanding. He took the key wicket of Rahul Dravid (78 in just over six hours) when he surprised him with some lift with the second new ball and forced him to play on. Nayan Mongia was likewise undone by extra bounce when he tried to drive.

Rose, too, bowled well, prising out Mohammad

Azharuddin with lift off a length. Azharuddin's 17 took him two hours. Rose's bounce was too much for the tail.

Had West Indies bowled on Saturday like they did yesterday, India would never have got to 200. Their openers were out to superb deliveries, Venkata Laxman to a leg-cutter that hit off and Navjot Sidhu to a ball that lifted. But between lunch and tea, too much of the bowling was too short or too wide or both.

Tendulkar cut with devastating effect and, with the ball coming on, twice drove magnificently on the up for four. So many four-balls were bowled that the 100 partnership with Dravid came in only 25 overs.

Only after tea, when at last the bowling became tighter, was a break put on the scoring. Tendulkar, becalmed, played a loose forcing shot off the back foot and was brilliantly caught at backward point by Sherwin Campbell at full stretch.

It had not been a flawless innings - on this grassy pitch that would be near-impossible - but some of his attacking shots were perfection. He hit 14 fours, three in one over from a wayward Dillon, and a pulled six off Rose.

Day 4: West Indies find old rhythm in amazing victory

One of West Indies' most memorable Test victories led to scenes of extraordinary rejoicing at Kensington Oval yesterday after India were bowled out for just 81 in 35.5 overs to lose by 38 runs. They go 1-0 down in the five-match series with two to play.

The three bowlers used by Brian Lara (the inexperienced Mervyn Dillon not being risked) were quite simply irresistible yesterday, as invariably they are on uneven pitches like this one. It was not a good wicket but, like Edgbaston last year, it produced a gripping Test match.

After the two featherbeds of the first Tests and the inevitable draws, we have gone from one extreme to the other. The West Indies Board will be fully aware that they have a pitches problem that urgently needs addressing but, as in England, parochiality has to be overcome.

It is doubtful if any batting line-up, the Australians included, could have repelled West Indies yesterday. Franklyn Rose was outstanding in an opening spell of 9-2-19-3. He produced three near-unplayable deliveries to take the first three wickets in the first hour, giving his side the belief they could carry off a victory even they must have thought unlikely. It rivals the one here against South Africa in 1992 when West Indies took the last eight wickets for 26 to win by 52 runs.

Rose, whose length and direction were spot on, immediately removed Navjot Sidhu with a snorter that reared up just short of a length, took the glove and flew to third slip. Rahul Dravid was equally helpless when Rose got one to lift and leave him. Courtney Browne took a regulation catch.

Rose reserved his best delivery for Venkata Laxman, who had his off stump clipped by a leg-cutter. Laxman played inside the line and walked off shaking his head.

The match turned irreversibly in the very next over when the one player capable of winning it for India was out to a beauty from Ian Bishop, who of all the bowlers played the biggest part in West Indies' victory. Aiming a push-drive at a length ball, Sachin Tendulkar was confounded by late away movement and was wonderfully caught by Lara at first slip. If ever there was a case of a catch winning a match, this was probably it. Lara described it as the most important of his career, for he badly wanted to win his first Test as captain.

The band in the Kensington Stand started playing their drums and wickets started to fall with the regularity of a drumbeat.

Curtly Ambrose replaced Rose at the pavilion end and straightaway breached Saurav Ganguly's defence with an off-cutter. Mohammad Azharuddin was then bowled by an Ambrose grubber, whereupon the party began in sections of an ecstatic crowd, notably the Trini Posse, whose loudspeakers started blaring a non-stop calypso.

By lunch India were seven down with Anil Kumble taken off a leading edge at square leg. Immediately after the restart, Nayan Mongia was bowled by Bishop, offering no shot to an off-cutter. Abey Kuruvilla nervously popped a catch to mid-on and Venkatesh Prasad, his feet glued, was last out, comprehensively bowled by Bishop.

In their second innings on Sunday evening the West Indies batsmen were guilty of several bad shots. With the pitch's consistent sideways movement, lift off a length and increasingly low bounce, it required someone to settle in for bed and breakfast, but no West Indian seemed interested in more than a snack. India bowled very well.

Much depended on Lara, who had played several vintage off-drives on his way to 45 from 67 balls. But Prasad lured him into chasing a widish full-length delivery which left him, taking the edge to second slip. Another loose drive cost Roland Holder his wicket.

Only some last-wicket swinging and carving by Ambrose and Dillon took West Indies' lead past the 100-mark. Their stand of 33 proved crucial.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk