Chanderpaul stands tall

LONDON, JULY 24. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 29, but in his tenth year as a Test batsman, kept England at bay for nearly four hours at Lord's on Saturday while he saved the follow-on and scored the 11th century of a career that has rarely reached the heights his supporters expected when he first emerged from a village in Guyana. It has still given him an average around 42 and helped the West Indies avoid the worst excesses of its steep decline in skills.

Today he was at his best: patient, careful, ready to defend until the bad ball came. His 100, from a scrambled two that almost got him into trouble, came at 334 for six off 192 balls. Only 25 were needed to avoid the follow on when he kissed the pitch — twice, in fact, which seems a bit excessive — a mark of the importance batsmen with nearly 5,000 Test runs give to a century on this ground above all. Gordon Greenidge, with memorable ferocity, Viv Richards with lordly grace and casual Carl Hooper are among the West Indians who have also scored hundreds at Lord's.

In view of his dismissal Brian Lara must have been sitting in the pavilion wondering how it is that he has only once gone past fifty here.

Chanderpaul took his time as he helped Dwayne Bravo, Ridley Jacobs and Omari Banks through the tortuous path that led to 369. Of course, he does not have elegance. His is a style all his own and, for all a century off 69 balls against the Australians last year, relies largely on dabs and prods and nudges.

He has often been a support batsman as he fiddled with his clothing, his pads, his bat and every other piece of equipment; legs in a cowboy arch behind what appear to be pads bought for a giant, with a stance that ignores every principle of a side-on game.

His fifth wicket stand with Dwayne Bravo, brought 125 crucial runs, showed the limitations of the three main England pacemen and the talent that makes Bravo the most likely to succeed of all the youngsters the West Indies is trying in its hours of need. The headlines will proclaim Bravo! Dwayne before long because he is such a good cricketer that a century or five wickets in an innings are a certainty. He was out for 44, as England waited for the new ball, caught behind by a ball from the ambling Simon Jones that leapt off the pitch.

Jacobs gave an exhibition of hesitant running and hefty hooking before he went for 32 and Banks was unable to handle the short ball from Hoggard but deliveries better pitched up with driven smoothly.

There has been talk throughout the Test of Andrew Flintoff being fit to bowl but he could manage only three overs of damp squibs before the West Indies reached 303 for five at lunch.

By tea it was still 170 behind but Michael Vaughan, the England captain, must have been wishing he and the middle order batsmen had scored the 700 runs on offer particularly when Graham Thorpe and Steve Harmison both dropped Banks in the outfield.

You will remember that yesterday I related how Brian Lara, captain of the West Indies, was out, how he stayed at the crease for a few seconds in disbelief. He also sat in the pavilion, still wearing his pads, for more than an hour after he was given out by umpire Daryl Harper, a clear signal that he was not best pleased with the decision.

Most shrewd observers shared his opinion and today he spoke about the incident with the same decorum, diplomacy and a succinct turn of phrase even an older cricket writer might admire. "I still find it impossible not to walk when I know I'm out," Lara said.

Lara has the record to prove that if he is out he goes. He did not walk; therefore he was not out. He spoke and criticised no one; in fact he showed the game an extra dimension in dignity and yet made his point.

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