At 30, Chanderpaul has finally tasted first blood after victory proved elusive for over a year.
At 30, Chanderpaul has finally tasted first blood after victory proved elusive for over a year. And he did it in style after leading from the front - his first innings contribution of 92 and an unbeaten 153 in the second innings serving as the backbone of the West Indies totals of 345 and 371.
After being beaten 2-0 in the test series against the Proteas, and then losing 8 consecutive ODIs to South Africa and Pakistan, the West Indies have finally played cohesively and showed that they are still a force to reckon with. In that process, they denied Pakistan its first series win in West Indies.
Recently, the lacklustre performance of the injury prone West Indies bowlers was blamed by the media and the fans for West Indies' recent losing streak. While the star batsmen dazzled with their individual performances, usually at the ARG (Antigua Recreation Ground to some and 'Another Record Gained' to others), these occasional feats of brilliance had not done much to lift the team's spirit.
West Indies middle-order batsmen too failed to fulfill their potential, often buckling under pressure and at crucial moments. Prior to the test match at the Kensignton Oval, the captain failed to provide the steadying influence that West Indies fans have come to expect.
Finally, Lara, Chanderpaul, Edwards, and Gayle performed when it mattered. Lara showed his match-winning ways with his sound knocks of 130 and 48. His 130 was his 3rd century in 4 tests. And Chanderpaul capitalized on this by putting a very high price tag on his own wicket.
Fidel Edwards bowled a devastating line in the first innings taking 5 for 38. That was enough to send the Pakistanis reeling back to the pavilion with just 144 in their first innings. Although Edwards bowled just 8 balls in the second innings, Gayle, who took 5 wickets for 91, showed that his vastly underrated offspin had some real sting!
For his stellar effort, Chanderpaul skipper was named man-of-the-match. He celebrated by thanking the West Indies fans for their unwavering support over the last couple of months. He went on to thank his mates - "we wanted to stay in front from the start of the game, we did and in the end we came out on top. Let me say well done to all of the guys. It was a team effort. I am happy that I was able to get the job done this time."
Suddenly, everything worked like it was supposed to and put the team on the rebound. This could well be the catalyst that the team needs to improve its confidence.
The reported fighting in the Pakistan camp has also created an undeniable fissure that now needs to be bridged ahead of the second test. Afridi reportedly disobeyed acting captain Younis' instructions to open the first innings. He padded up after a spat with Younis but confronted his captain after the day ended. Inzamam, instead of supporting the acting captain, ended up supporting Afridi which has left Younis feeling somewhat unhappy.
Even before the West Indies tour, Inzamam never approved of Younis's promotion to the role of vice-captain. During the current tour, with Youhana back in Pakistan to care for his ailing father, and Inzamam serving his suspension, Younis was promoted to the captain's slot. This did not go well at all with Inzamam and his loyalists who felt that the outspoken Younis was "getting too big for his boots."
The dressing room fracas is sure to erode the morale of the Pakistani team at a time when they are already under some psychological pressure.
On the other hand, Inzamam makes a comeback in the second match. His very presence is sometimes enough to align his troops. So it is definitely not going to be a cakewalk for West Indies.
The second test match begins in Jamaica on Friday.