Indians give WI a sniff, match in the balance

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2002, 9:19 [IST]
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West Indies, on Monday, gave itself a reasonably good chance, at the Queen's Park Oval, to go one-up in this 5-match Cable and Wireless Series by reaching 131 for two in pursuit of 313. Earlier, resuming at 165 for four, India was bowled out for 218. The Indians presented West Indies with an out side chance of winning this match when they lost the last five wickets for 13 runs. Ganguly (75 not out) and Laxman (74) had done a great job putting on 149 runs for the fifth wicket but once Laxman was gone, playing on to the new ball, wickets fell in a heap. Ganguly on 48 overnight posted his half-century and in the company of Laxman looked like taking India to an overall lead of 350-375 when the new ball cut short things for India. Once Laxman was gone the tail just buckled under and skipper Ganguly was left stranded.

For the West Indies, its bowlers made maximum use of the second new ball bowling a brilliant line and length - probably the best they have bowled in this series thus far. Dillon and Cuffy picked up five of the six wickets that fell. Having got the Indians out for relatively less than what it expected this morning, the West Indies in return put up a spirited show. Although there is still a long way to go and the fall of a couple of wickets could put things firmly in India's favour - given the long tail West Indies have, West Indies at this stage would fancy its chance of winning. West Indies lost Stuart Williams early (27 for one) caught at first slip to Srinath but after that recovered well through a 98-run second wicket partnership between Sarwan and Gayle/Lara - Gayle (21) had to retire hurt due to cramps in his arms.

Lara looked in great touch and so did Sarwan (41) but as often is the case Sarwan gave it away after having worked hard. Sarwan, one of West Indies' brightest prospect, looked as compact as ever - getting right behind the line of the ball and was looking good to deliver a good deal more but as so often as he does he played a loose shot to bring about his down fall. Sarwan nibbled at a Harbhajan straight ball only to see Dravid at first slip pouch a neat catch. Having got a half-century behind his back, Lara looked more assured and in greater knick in his second knock.

He late cut, drove and swept with his customary grace and took himself to 40 before bad light called off play. Given Sachin's century in this match, it looks like Lara is all focused and keen to get his. However, from the West Indies point of view the match heavily rests on the shoulders of Lara and Hooper and if one of them can get a big hundred West Indies should be through. Form India's point of view if it can snap up these two wickets for not much then it should be home and dry. As of now, this game stands in the balance and the last day's play holds a lot in store for both the teams.

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