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2003 Antigua Test: When Dead-Rubber Claimed a Page in the History

Chasing a record 418 in the fourth innings against a powerful Australian bowling attack, West Indies enjoyed success with sheer confidence and greatness.

ST JOHN'S, ANTIGUA - MAY 13: The West Indies team celebrate their win after day five of the fourth test between the West Indies and Australia played on May 13, 2003 at the Recreation Oval in St John's, Antigua. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

“Life is lived on the inside, what’s outside doesn’t matter.”

Very interesting I find the dead-rubbers; for one side it’s just a matter of coming onto the field, resting the big players with tired legs carrying the weight of the nation in most of the games and also providing the young bloods a new chance to represent their country whereas on the flip of the coin; it’s an opportunity for the other side to get some pride back and letting the momentum going forward; although the system has changed a bit with the inclusion of new point systems.

Bad Form of West Indies: 

One of the highly powerhouse of the game, Australia, arrived in West Indies after winning another World Cup in 2003 for a four-test series and seven ODIs to follow. The home side wasn’t in the good space having been whitewashed in South Africa (1998) and Australia (2000). The old memories of the 1999 series, where Brain Lara almost single-handedly defeated the Kangaroos in Jamaica and Barbados; although the later went on to draw the series (2-2), wasn’t the case.

The West Indies team celebrate their win. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

After completely dominating the home side in the first three Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados test matches respectively, they reached Antigua with an aim of whitewashing the island. The hosts were moving out of the track with the only bright spot was that Ricky Ponting wouldn’t take field due to a viral infection.

Jermaine Lawson Breathed Fire:

With a placid wicket underneath and the sun blazing above, there was hardly any rocket science for skipper Steve Waugh to opt for batting with the series score-line might help him a bit. What happened next wasn’t expected even by those who did it. Jermaine Lawson with his fearing pace, went through the mighty Australian side bundling them just for 240 and returned back with a career best of 7-78. Opener Langer with his captain toiled so hard for their scores in the 40s and Gilchrist, Bichel & Martin Love’s scores into the 30s gave a bit solidity.

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West Indies batsmen and their fans might plan of using the wicket in a better way but they found the same route of falling apart from Brain Lara, who did try his level best with 67. The Aussie attack led by Brett Lee and Bichel with a nice hand from Glen McGrath stopped the opponents on 240, leaving nothing to keep one side ahead. None the less, the home side got a setback after learning that the hero of the first innings, Lawson, had been reported to the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to his suspected bowling action.

Langer Lashed on the opponents with a hundred:

In the second innings, Langer and Hayden opening partnership went blizzard hitting the balls sweetly in their characteristic manner. The restriction of Jermaine from the bowling attack helped too. After yet another double century stand, when Justin got dismissed on 111, the scoreboard showed 2-more than their first innings. But the weather still remained attacking as Hayden kept pulling and cutting or driving to all corners of the park before being run out on 177. 

But, somehow, they went off to the track and in just around 150-runs, they were bundled out for 417, still a score that wasn’t chased by any team till date. With a daunting task ahead and weather remaining fair for most of the time being left, it would be really interesting to see the approach of the home nation.

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The extra cautious did not help them at all. The first wicket, Chris Gayle, fell on 48 but at the 25th over. The only problem I could squeeze up in those saving mode is whenever you loose one or two wickets back-to-back, it’s you who comes under pressure straightaway with the opponents could walk on the field easily. And the exact show took place there too. The West Indies had been cornered at 74-3.

The heat of the game:

Fortunes turned and Lara went crazy. One of the old players who loved the words coming from the opponents and perhaps Aussies weren’t aware of it. The concentration was marvelous. At one point, Waugh, getting denied by what he thought was a clear catch, engaged with Lara in a verbal spat. “Told you so, you only walk when it suits you.” Pronounced the captain to which the left-hander replied, “Shut up.” It went for more seconds than expected and at last Umpire David Shepherd required to step up in the middle to bring calmness.

No sooner did it stop, another one started. This time between Ramnaresh Sarwan and Glen McGrath. After Lara’s return to the dug-out, the former with new batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul who played the anchor role, started to play shots and for the very first time, the tourists were under a bit of pressure. McGrath wasn’t in the real state of playing the game specially after knowing about his wife’s cancer and missed the first couple of tests.

The fast bowler just to scoff Sarwan expressing some words at him. The question, “What does Lara’s c*ck taste like?” after couple of unsuccessful over hit back with a reply of “Why don’t you ask your wife?” from the young batsman. The heat in the middle went on more than the Sun. Some of the Australians took their mate’s side, with both the umpires tried hard to separate them but the incident at the end left a sour taste.

The winning partnership of Sarwan-Chanderpaul:

Sarwan & Chanderpaul partnership of 123-runs with both of them bringing up their respective tons laid the brightest and solid foundation for something one hardly imagined specially in this series. The later stayed not out at stumps with 47 still needed for remaining 4-wickets to script a new history.

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Chanderpaul might get out but it didn’t do enough in Aussie’s favor. Banks and Drakes put not a single foot as a cut shot for four penned down the lines that the West Indies had chased down a record total (418) with three wickets in the bag.

St John’s crowd went mad:

The St John’s crowd went mad as the camera found the home fans coming on the ground taking photos and having hugs.

The moments will be cherished for long time to come. Unbelievable job done from the curator too in providing such a fantastic 22-yard. Stop those mouths those said that Test Cricket is boring and dull to watch.

The scenes might not paint the right image as the home side had lost the series but winning a dead-rubber can be so special in that fashion too.

Brief Scorecard: –

Australia: 240 (Justin Langer- 42, Jermaine Lawson- 7-78) and 417 (Mathew Hayden 177, Justin Langer 111, Mervyn Dillon 4-112) lost to West Indies: 240 (Brain Lara 68, Andy Bichel- 3-52) & 418/7 (Ramnaresh Sarwan 105, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 104, Brett Lee 4-63) by 3 wickets.

Man of the Match: Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

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