On April 10, 2008, Shivnarine Chanderpaul pulled off an incredible heist against Sri Lanka at Queen’s Park Oval. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the day when the grafter had his vengeance.
If Shivnarine Chanderpaul were a car, he would probably have had two gears – the first, and, well, probably the ninth or tenth. Rarely have we got to witness Chanderpaul’s alter ego in flow, though: but when we have, he has been devastating beyond anyone’s imagination.
The Australians had got a taste of that on April 10, 2003 when Chanderpaul decimated the world champions to reach his hundred in 69 balls at Bourda [a famous match where West Indies chased 418 to win the Test match] –the then third-fastest (now the fourth) of all time. He had surprised all with his brutal assault on Steve Waugh’s gullible brigade.
Exactly five years later, on the same day, Chanderpaul went berserk again – this time going into the match with a bout of influenza. This time it was Mahela Jayawardene’s Sri Lankans who were at the receiving end in an ODI at Queen’s Park Oval. It was the first match of the series, where Chris Gayle won the toss and put the Sri Lankans in.
The Lankan innings
Less than 15 overs into the match, the Sri Lankan innings was in tatters. Kumar Sangakkara had started an assault, scoring 23 in 24 balls, but they lost their way as Dwayne Bravo kept picking up wickets at regular intervals; Sri Lanka were reduced to 49 for five in 15 overs, with their seniors, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, and Tillakaratne Dilshan, all back in the pavillion. At this stage Bravo’s figures read 5-1-10-3.
This brought the two Chamaras together, as Kapugedera walked out to join Silva. Both were in their early days of International cricket, and the onus of resurrecting Sri Lankan innings fell on the two kids. Not only did they keep out the four-pronged attack of Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Bravo, and Darren Sammy, they also managed to score runs at will.
The fours kept coming, and Silvas brought up the fifty-partnership with a leg-bye at the end of the 29th over. Gayle got his tall debutant left-arm spinner Suliemann Benn, but the batsmen kept on milking him for easy runs. Both batsmen reached their fifties in the 40th over, at the end of which Sri Lanka were on 148 for 5.
Benn’s ninth over went for 14 as Kapugedera hit him for two sixes – over mid-wicket and over the bowler. Silva perished in the next over, trying to hoick Bravo over mid-wicket, but providing a tame catch to Gayle. His 67 had taken him 96 ballswhich included seven fours. The duo had added 159 runs in 189 balls, and had given Sri Lankan score an air of respectability.
Kapugedera continued slogging; he flat-batted Edwards for a six over long-on, and then paddle-swept the fast bowler for another boundary in the next ball. He was 95 with two balls to go, but when he shuffled across and tried to hit Edwards past fine-leg, the ball his boot, and he was given out for a 117-ball 95. He had hit seven fours and three sixes, and Sri Lanka had recovered to 235 for 7 in 50 overs. Bravo finished with figures of 10-1-32-4.
The West Indians were circumspect to begin with. They knew that the Sri Lankans did not have Muttiah Muralitharan in the side, and Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekera were the only bowlers of any pedigree. They had an ordinary seamer called Ishara Amerasinghe and a debutant spinner , Ajantha Mendis – and depended on their batting all-rounders to fill in for the rest of the overs.
Gayle broke loose after West Indies had reached 15 without loss in seven overs, scoring consecutive boundaries off Kulasekera – punching through mid-off, hooking past fine-leg, and thick-edging through third-man. Jayawardene brought on Amerasinghe, and Gayle hit him for fours through mid-wicket, backward point, and then thwacked him over long-on for his first six.
Though Devon Smith got out, it did not seem to matter, as Gayle was joined by Ramnaresh Sarwan, and the two of them made merry. This was when Jawardene got the debutant spinner Mendis on.
The West Indians were not sure whether Mendis bowled leg-breaks or off-breaks. Whatever he did, he was extremely difficult to read, and suddenly there was a stranglehold – even on Gayle. After a few claustrophobic overs, Gayle missed one from Mendis was trapped leg-before for an 81-ball 57. First blood was drawn by the debutant.
Jayawardene brought Kulasekera back, and the seamer immediately found Sarwan’s edge, and then, after Chanderpaul prodded for a single, Kulasekera trapped Marlon Samuels for a golden duck. Amerasinghe was brought back, which released some pressure, with both Chanderpaul and Bravo treating him with utter disdain.
The two formed a partnership – but then, with 67 to get from 72, disaster struck: Chanderpaul glanced one from Dilshan towards fine-leg, and Bravo ran for a sharp single; Chanderpaul, transfixed on Jayawardene, did not; the captain picked up the ball and threw to Sangakkara in one fluid motion; seeing both batsmen at the same end, Sangakkara threw it back to Dilshan, who took the bails off.
With the wicket-keeper Patrick Browne at the crease now, it was nowChanderpaul against the Sri Lankans. True, he had scored 23 off 25, but could he see West Indies through?
The pressure was mounting. 64 from 66. 57 from 60. 55 from 54. 49 from 48. 45 from 42. 44 from 36. Mendis was looking menacing by now, and Vaas and Kulasekera bowled tightly from the other end. Jayawardene needed to get one over from one of the other bowlers, so he persisted with Dilshan.
Dilshan bowled a flat one, and Browne stepped out, lofting him over long-on for a six, bringing the crowd to its feet. Dilshan tossed the next one up; Browne tried an encore, but did not get enough elevation, and Mendis took a smart catch at long-on.
Coming on from the other end, Mendis not only put a strap on the scoring rate (and made up for Browne’s six), he also cleaned up Sammy’s off-stump with a lethal flipper. West Indies needed 31 from 24 balls now.
Taylor had joined Chanderpaul. Kulasekera conceded only three runs in his ninth over, bringing the equation to 28 from 18; the match looked beyond Chanderpaul’s scope now. Mendis came on to bowl his final over – and the 48th of the innings.
Chanderpaul scored asingle past the bowler. Taylor thengot a single past square-leg. Chanderpaul hit the third to deep mid-wicket and scored couple of runs, and followed it up with a single past cover. 23 were needed from 14 now. Could Taylor pull off anything special against the mystery spinner?
Mendis tossed one up. Taylor stood still, very still, at the crease; the flighted ball landed on the leg-stump; it was a leg-break, but it probably did not matter to Taylor, for he had already decided on the slog: the ball soared over Silva for a six.
17 off 13 was certainly gettable! Would Mendis toss up again? How would Taylor respond? Would he go for it again, or leave things to Chanderpaul? The spectators waited with bated breath as Mendis ran in for the final ball of his spell.
Mendis kept his calm. He tossed up another leg-break. Taylor had probably anticipated it, so he waited again, and tried an encore: the ball flew, but this time it went flatter – straight to Silva’s throat at long-on. Mendis had finished with 10-1-39-3 on debut, and West Indies now required 17 from two overs. The worst news, though, was the fact that the batsmen had crossed, so the debutant Benn had to face the first ball of the 49th over.
It was a toss up between Kulasekera and Vaas to ball the penultimate over. Jayawardene wanted to keep his seasoned pro for the very end, and handed the ball to Kulasekera. Benn, instead of going for the easy and safe touch-and-run option, went for colossal slogs, and missed the first four balls. He eventually connected the fifth, but Jayawardene’s throw beat him, and the target was 17 from 7 balls now – virtually impossible to get – more so as the ninth wicket was down.
The over still had a ball left. What would Chanderpaul do? Would he tap the ball and keep strike in the next over? Or would he give it a thump? He chose the latter, and the ball rocketed past mid-off for a boundary. Kulasekera finished with an impressive 10-0-43-3, and Chanderpaul, well, reached a 60-ball 50 with that shot.
The deficit was reduced by four, but it also meant that Edwards would be on strike to Vaas, who had figures of 9-4-17-0 till then. All Edwards needed to do, though, was to be more sensible than Benn – and take a single.
The final over
Vaas ran in. Edwards needed a single desperately. Vaas would surely try to bowl a yorker. Surely Edwards knew that. Vaas attempted one, Edwards anticipated it – but the slice went straight to cover – and the much-required single did not happen.
13 from five. Vaas again, his run-up measured, his action smooth, his brain as cold as an icebox. Edwards knew the yorker will be attempted again. Vaas did attempt it – and this time Edwards could place it between point and cover – as the batsmen scampered for a single.
12 from four. Chanderpaul needed to face all four balls to give West Indies the slimmest of chances. Could he? Vaas bowled. Chanderpaul moved aside, made room, and drove hard to long-on – but perhaps a bit too hard. Edwards attempted a second, but Chanderpaul had the sense to turn him down.
11 from three. Edwards was back on strike. Vaas bowled his fourth consecutive low full-toss. Edwards took the risk, and shuffling across, drove Vaas past mid-wicket. The much-required single was taken.
Ten from two. Surely this was impossible? Chanderpaul needed a four and a six at the least. Surely no one of his nature would be able to pull this off? He told later: “The second-last ball I knew just had to hit. I was looking to get under it but I then had to hit it straight and hard. I timed that one very well.”
The fielders inside the circle spread back onto the edge of the ring. Who would be able to hold his nerve – Chanderpaul or Vaas? Vaas ran in, and, well, could not deliver the ball; the tension had probably got to him. The umpire signalled dead-ball, and Vaas went back to his mark.
Chanderpaul stood still again, with that trademark side-on stance of his. Over years, his stance has given the bowlers all over the world the impression that it was easy to run through his defence. They could not have been more mistaken, though.
Vaas bowled. It was over-pitched. Chanderpaul moved, and down came his bat like the ferocity of a bardiche; the timing was impeccable, and the ball sped between Vaas and a helpless mid-off to race to the boundary.
Six off the final ball. What would Vaas do now? He couldn’t afford to bowl a no-ball, for sure. Did Jayawardene utter the same words Frank Worrell had said to Wes Hall close to five decades back? We’ll never get to know.
The man in question remained calm, though. He simply removed his helmet after the ball, wiped his forehead with the sleeves of his shirt, adjusted his gloves, and took a fresh guard. Jayawardene brought his fine-leg inside the circle, pushing the long-off back.
Viewers from the two island nations sat transfixed on their television sets as Vaas ran in to bowl for one final time in the match. He reached the bowling crease, and then, just like Chetan Sharma had done over two decades back, he let loose a full-toss. As Chanderpaul gave it his all, the usually commentator lost his cool on air, and went “Has it gone? Has it gone? Has it gone? Has it gone? It’s gooooooooooone! It’s goooooooooooone!”
Chanderpaul later said “I prayed and prayed and asked God to give me the strength to hit that ball out of the ground. The plan was to fire as hard as I could”.
It was the victory of the neglected grafter over the reckless stroke players.
Sri Lanka 235 for 7 in 50 overs (Chamara Kapugedera 95, Chamara Silva 67; Dwayne Bravo 4 for 32) lost to West Indies 236 for 9 in 50 overs (Shivnarine Chanderpaul 62 not out, Chris Gayle 52; Ajantha Mendis 3 for 39, Nuwan Kulasekera 3 for 43) by one wicket.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)