Shivnarine Chanderpaul nearly broke Trinidad and Tobago hearts yesterday afternoon. But in the end, he could not prevent victory for the home team.
The West Indies veteran nearly turned what had seemed a T&T march to victory for the better part of four days at the Queen's Park Oval into at best, a draw, with a splendid 108 (14 fours). He could not prevent a 45-run win for Denesh Ramdin's team, though, in this fascinating Regional Four-Day fixture at the Queen's Park Oval.
The timely interventions of Sunil Narine (28.4-4-105-4), Shannon Gabriel (15-249-3) and Dwayne Bravo—with the wicket of Chanderpaul via a diving catch to his left by wicket-keeper Ramdin—eventually sealed the win shortly after five o'clock. But it took much longer than anticipated.
"Shiv played extremely well to hold the innings together," T&T coach David Williams admitted afterwards. " Sarwan batted well to a point. But we know Guyana is a good chasing side. We didn't expect them to chase the runs down, but they played well."
That the Guyanese came within 50 runs of an improbable win with the full 15 mandatory overs still to be bowled, was due in large measure to the unflappable Chanderpaul. His cricketing DNA designed for crises, he crafted his 108 in just a shade over five hours, forming productive partnerships of 105 with Ramnaresh Sarwan (42, six fours), 70 with No.10 Paul Wintz (50, 10 fours) and 60 with Devendra Bishoo (47 not out, eight fours) for the ninth wicket, after the nightwatchman returned at 267 for eight, having retired hurt in the morning session following a blow on the right index finger from Gabriel.
All-rounder Bravo it was who ended an increasingly tense period for his team and their fans when he got Chanderpaul to feather that catch to Ramdin. But the 376-run victory target was just too big for a Guyanese miracle, even on a pitch that gave them every chance.
"The wicket didn't really live up to expectations," Williams said. "It played a lot better than we thought and at the end of the day you're happy with the 12 points."
The conditions allowed pacer Wintz, playing in only his second regional match, to lash a free-scoring half-century. More of a batsman when playing for Woodland in the T&T Cricket Board's Championship Division competition, he caught the T&T bowlers off-guard with his strokeplay, getting to his 50 in just 67 balls before Narine bowled him.
"We didn't really know him as a batter like that, he batted extremely well...we didn't know much about him but we know now," said the T&T coach. "Maybe we did take the foot off the gas just a little bit, but it happens at times when you have that amount of runs on the board."
That T&T eventually prevailed was due largely to the work of two bowlers.
Whereas Guyana's first innings was defined by the off-spin of Man-of-the-Match Narine (ten wickets overall), it was the pace and aggression of Gabriel which largely contributed to their failed victory chase yesterday.
A spiteful short delivery that took the glove and ballooned to Kieron Pollard at first slip dismissed first innings top scorer Leon Johnson without scoring in the first session. Then there was the lifter that caught Bishoo.
In the second session, with the senior pros Chanderpaul and Sarwan defying T&T, Gabriel came back for a second, five-over spell and dismissed Sarwan and captain Veerasammy Permaul.
Sarwan played down the wrong line to a full delivery that struck his off-stump, while Permaul edged another full delivery to Dwayne Bravo at first slip. His first two spells were impressive, if only because of the lift Gabriel was able to extract from a surface that remained easy paced from the first day.
"He bowled with a lot of speed and that is what we expect from Shannon. He bowled with tremendous pace on a lifeless track...He's going to do extremely well for West Indies if selected," noted Williams.
However, like with their cricket throughout the match, T&T got contributions from others.
"Sunil did his part in the first innings, but we had a number of guys that played extremely well. That partnership with Denesh and Khan in the first innings. Simmo having two half-centuries, (Adrian) Barath doing his bit, (Kieron) Pollard making 50-odd off 32 balls, Shannon getting a crucial wicket, that Sarwan wicket was very important. At the end of the day, the guys put their hands up and it was a total team effort."
Even with a team minus Ramdin and Gabriel for tomorrow's day/night Super50 match, Williams will expect the same kind of effort. And result.
T&T Super 50 squad: Dwayne Bravo (Captain), Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, Justin Guillen, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Yannic Cariah, Yannick Ottley, Sunil Narine, Rayad Emrit, Evin Lewis, Samuel Badree, Kevon Cooper.