SPORT

Samuels, Lawson sizzle; India fizzles out

The West Indies team which clinched the one-day series against India by winning the seventh and final one-day match at Vijayawada on Sunday. — Photo: N. Balaji  

Vijayawada Nov. 24. This is a game, that's as much about raw emotions, as skill. Passion rules in cricket.

It was a stirring moment when Marlon Samuels pulled out the `red rag', a gift from that indomitable Aussie Steve Waugh, and held it aloft for the world to see after conjuring a century of blinding brilliance.

Jermaine Lawson's uninhibited `war dance' brought back the Caribbean memories of old after a yorker of scorching pace had shattered a hapless Dinesh Mongia's defence.

And Ramnaresh Sarwan's astonishing catch at short mid-wicket, when he plucked the ball out of thin air even as Indian captain Rahul Dravid essayed the flick, had even the legendary Vivian Richards high-fiving in the pavilion.

It may have only been a piece of cloth, just another fast bowler's dismissal, and one more outstanding piece of catching in an age where the fielding standards have improved noticeably, however, these vignettes from the seventh and decisive TVS Cup ODI at the Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium, here, on Sunday, carried a significant message.

That the famous West Indian pride was still alive, that the Caribbeans can still roar when it matters, that for this beleaguered cricketing nation of great tradition and conquests, there still is hope.

Carl Hooper's men outplayed India by 135 runs on a pitch that was essentially batsmen-friendly to clinch the series 4-3, the icing on the cake being the Man of the Match award to Samuels, and the Player of the Series prize to Chris Gayle.

It was a tame performance by India, with the home team's display betraying a distinct lack of character. There just was no fight, no resistance.

Under the pressure of mounting another 300-plus chase, in what amounted to a Cup final, the team just crumbled under the weight of expectations in front of a packed crowd.

Jermaine Lawson, a last minute selection due to a back injury to the more experienced Pedro Collins came thundering in, generated pace, and fired out four batsmen in his match-winning burst - 7-0-42-4 - with the new ball.

Dangerman Virender Sehwag was taken at first slip by Hooper, Laxman chasing a wide one was adjudged caught behind, Mongia was done in by the yorker, and Dravid perished to that breathtaking catch by Sarwan. At 67 for four, the writing was on the wall for India.

Yuveraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif were together now, but this time around there were no miracles from the Young Guns, with Collymore breaching Kaif's defence. Soon the paceman trapped Sanjay Bangar leg-before to reduce India to 107 for six, and it was only a question of time and margin.

Yuveraj battled hard for his 68 - he was the last man out consumed by Gayle's off-spin - the left-hander struck some telling blows, though the cause was a lost one.

The leather hunt

Earlier, Samuels caressing the ball more than striking it, clearing the ropes effortlessly, coaxing 'em into the gaps with consummate ease and creating both the room and the open spaces, reached his maiden ODI hundred in just 72 deliveries, eventually remaining unbeaten with 108 (74b, 10x4, 5x6). And the Caribbeans recovered from 16 for two to an imposing 315 for six in 50 overs.

It was a leather hunt that will haunt the Indians for a long time, as the Caribbeans put into bat rattled up a whopping 151 runs in the final 15 overs, including 121 in the last ten. This was massacre, pure and simple, as the bowlers ran out of ideas and the fielders came under much stress.

There are occasions when Samuels appears a mirror image of his captain Carl Hooper, the same litheness in movement, the same softness of hands, the same range of exotic strokes and the same ability to dismantle an attack when in mood.

There was just the hint of a chance at 31 when he drove Ajit Agarkar dangerously close to a leaping Kaif at cover, and that remained a fleeting moment of vulnerability, as Samuels was back waltzing at the crease.

It was a high-octane exhibition of strokeplay with Samuels' first 50 arriving in 49 deliveries, and his second off only 23, a phase when he struck five fours and three sixes, his straight hitting being particularly awesome.

Such was the quality of Samuels' innings that it overshadowed the efforts of the flamboyant Wavell Hinds (58) and the fleet-footed Ramnaresh Sarwan (83), who put the West Indian innings back on the rails after that bumpy start with a 116-run third wicket stand in 130 balls.

And after Hinds played across to a quicker delivery from Sehwag, and Sarwan was trapped leg-before attempting to cut Agarkar, Samuels and Ricardo Powell - the big-hitter cleverly donned the supportive role - raised 109 for the fifth wicket off just 62 balls, in an exciting partnership. The turning point of the contest, and it was here that the game actually got away from India.

The Windies lost Powell and skipper Hooper towards the end, but then these dismissals, hardly altered the course of the match.

India's bright moments

It had all begun so differently when the in-form Chris Gayle, `a stand and deliver kind of batsman', who earned a life when Sanjay Bangar at first slip was not fast enough as the left-hander edged Ajit Agarkar, mistimed a drive off Srinath to Mohammed Kaif at cover. Shivnarine Chanderpaul fell soon, checking his drive against Agarkar, only to see Murali Kartik hold the catch gleefully at a deep widish mid-off.

Like at Jodhpur, Srinath and Agarkar operated to a tidy line and length, indicated by their first spells of 7-0-26-1 and 6-0-23-1, however, that remained India's brightest moment on the field.

In the Indian attack, only off-spinner Sarandeep Singh managed to make an impression, operating to a consistent line. Srinath and Agarkar were taken for runs in the later spells, with Samuels dismissing the former for 21 runs in the 47th over that included a scorching straight-drive and a stunning six over extra-cover.

And left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, bowled in three spells by Dravid, was never allowed to settle down, with the West Indians quick to sweep and drive him after using their feet. Sehwag's off-spin was useful, while Bangar's medium-pace was dealt firmly by Samuels, who hammered the all-rounder for three successive fours.

With Harbhajan Singh still not fully recovered from his groin injury, off-spinner Sarandeep Singh took the place of Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

"I could see it in his eyes this morning. He wanted to play,'' revealed Hooper on Lawson's inclusion later on. It was a day, when emotions ruled in the West Indian camp.

Scoreboard

WEST INDIES
C. Gayle c Kaif b Srinath 5
(8b)
W. Hinds b Sehwag58
(68b, 7x4)
S. Chanderpaul c Kartik
b Agarkar6
(18b, 1x4)
R. Sarwan lbw b Agarkar83
(102b, 6x4, 1x6)
M. Samuels (not out)108
(74b, 10x4, 5x6)
R. Powell st Dravid
b Sehwag30
(28b, 3x4)
C. Hooper c Kaif b Sehwag13
(7b, 1x4, 1x6)
R. Jacobs (not out)0
Extras (lb-6, nb-5, w-1)12
— —
Total (for six wkts in 50 overs)315
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Gayle), 2-16 (Chanderpaul), 3-132 (Hinds), 4-182 (Sarwan), 5-291 (Powell), 6-307 (Hooper). India bowling: Srinath 9-0-55-1 (nb-1); Agarkar 10-1-56-2 (nb-1); Bangar 5-0-39-0 (w-1); Kartik 9-0-69-0 (nb-1); Sarandeep 10-0-31-0, Sehwag 7-0-59-3 (nb-2).
INDIA
V. Sehwag c Hooper
b Lawson12
(15b, 2x4)
D. Mongia b Lawson20
(30b, 1x4)
V.V.S. Laxman c Jacobs
b Lawson22
(22b, 3x4)
R. Dravid c Sarwan
b Lawson3
(9b)
Y. Singh b Gayle68
(67b, 7x4, 1x6)
M. Kaif b Collymore10
(16b)
S. Bangar lbw b Collymore2
(8b)
A. Agarkar c Collymore
b Gayle4
(8b)
M. Kartik b Gayle2
(11b)
S. Singh c (sub) Nagamootoo
b Drakes19
(29b, 3x4)
J. Srinath (not out)3
(7b)
Extras (b-3, lb-2, nb-1, w-9)15
— —
Total (in 36.5 overs) 180
— —

Fall of wickets: 1-23 (Sehwag), 2-56 (Laxman), 3-59 (Mongia), 4-67 (Dravid), 5-99 (Kaif), 6-107 (Bangar), 7-121 (Agarkar), 8-126 (Kartik), 9-158 (S. Singh).

West Indies bowling: Drakes 7-0-44-1, Lawson 10-0-57-4 (w-4), Collymore 7-0-30-2 (nb-1, w-1), Hooper 6-0-22-0 (w-3), Gayle 6.5-0-22-3 (w-1).