A feat to remember for West Indies

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

ANDREW RAMESY

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books. That they achieved, but entered the annals on the wrong side of the ledger when a young but exuberant West Indian opponent halted their push for an historic Caribbean whitewash and mounted the highest successful fourth-innings run chase in Test cricket's long history. Set an improbable 418 to secure a win after eight consecutive Test defeats at the hands of their highly-acclaimed rivals, the West Indies took heart at the outset of their quest from the existing fourth innings record set by India in Trinidad 27 years earlier.

Shortly after Vasbert Drakes hit the winning boundary on the fifth morning to send the Antigua Recreation Ground into a celebratory frenzy, West Indies captain Brian Lara revealed that a friend had presented him with a copy of the score sheet from that epic 1976 match at Queen's Park Oval.

Lara studied it in his hotel room at the end of the third day when his team had just began their mountainous task and were 0-47, and what he read of India's innings gave him great encouragement even though history and sporting wisdom were against him.

``It (the 1976 scorecard) didn't look impressive,'' Lara said. ``It looked like it was a great team effort. No-one took anything and ran away with it.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

``It was really nice to see because it was relaxing. It relaxed my mind. I personally thought someone would need to play a big innings, or we'd need to be 300 without loss.

``But I realised that wasn't the case. We just needed to put together a few partnerships within the top order and that's what we did.''

What Lara didn't let on was his thoughts when he compared the bowling attacks from the two Tests.

Even the staunchest Indian fan would struggle to argue that the 1976 West Indian attack consisting of a very young Michael Holding, Bernard Julien, Clive Lloyd, Albert Padmore and Raphick Jumadeen carried the same potency as the Australian line-up of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Andy Bichel and Stuart MacGill.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

For that reason alone, few gave the West Indies realistic hope especially when they slumped to 3-74 on the fourth morning.

It appeared any last hope vanished after lunch when Lara - - the man who most believed needed to play another huge innings if his team was to salvage a draw, let alone contemplate a win - - was clean bowled trying to belt MacGill over the long-on fence for the fourth time in his innings of 60.

But from that point, the young West Indian bats took the game away from the tiring Australian attack who were obviously feeling the pinch from back-to-back Tests compounded by the three long days they had spent in the field in Barbados trying to prise out a win on a benign pitch.

As Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul fashioned heroic centuries on the truest wicket the series saw, the ugly side of the Australian team was once more put on display.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

This time it was McGrath who clashed with Sarwan in an explosive confrontation, apparently triggered when McGrath misinterpreted the young West Indian vice-captain's response to the Australian's crass verbal taunt.

No reports were laid as umpire David Shepherd quickly intervened, but the incident prompted a rebuke for the Australian team from their top administrators in Melbourne and fired the already highly-charged crowd closer to hysteria.

That feeling boiled over in the wake of the McGrath-Sarwan incident when - - after Sarwan again threw away his wicket playing an ill-advised pull shot - - local Antiguan hero Ridley Jacobs came and went within the space of one delivery, given out by Shepherd caught off his elbow from a Lee thunderbolt.

News that the umpire had erred badly quickly swept the ground, and it wasn't long before a hail of glass bottles were thrown on to the field in protest. Play was halted for more than five minutes before order was restored and a subsequent rain shower help douse passions.

But the incident, which clearly breached International Cricket Council guidelines which ban glass bottles at all international venues, will do nothing to help the West Indies Cricket Board's claim it can stage a trouble-free World Cup in 2007.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

By the time stumps were drawn at the end of that evenful day, the West Indies had drawn to within 47 runs of the Australian total with four wickets in hand, one of which was Chanderpaul who was in sublime touch despite a finger injury he sustained while fielding.

While his and Sarwan's centuries laid the foundation for the West Indies'historic triumph, it was the nerveless last-day batting of 20-year-old Anguillan Omari Banks along with the veteran Drakes which crowned a match steeped in controversy and intrigue from the opening day.

That was when Australia opted to bat first on a bouncy wicket, the preparation of which was overseen by former champion fast bowler Andy Roberts and which was tailor-made for emerging Jamaican quick, Jermaine Lawson.

Lawson revelled in the pace and bounce on offer to capture career-best figures of 7-78 as Australia's batsmen struggled to come to tems with the extra life and posted just 240.

But even before Lawson had cleaned up the Australian tail on the first evening, concerns were being raised within the umpires' room and the press box about the legality of his action.

It came as no surprise during day four when match referee Mike Procter confirmed the 22-year-old had been reported to the ICC for having a suspect action, and he now faces six weeks of intensive work with bowling coaches before being re-evaluated.

Holding the whip hand for the first time in the series, the West Indies squandered their advantage when their batsmen registered precisely the same score and then - with Lawson out of the attack apparently suffering from a lower back strain - were humbled as Australia's Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer carved out their fifth double-century opening stand which surpassed the previous best mark of four set by West Indian legends Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

At 0-242 on the third morning, Australia appeared in an impregnable position. But a middle-order collapse sparked by an inspired spell of old-ball bowling by Merv Dillon wrapped up the innings for 417 late on the third day.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

It was that, coupled with the scoring frenzy unleashed by Sarwan and Chanderpaul against an obviously rattled Australian attack on the fourth evening, which cost Australia a chance of becoming the first team ever to mount a series clean sweep in the Caribbean.

``I would have loved a few more runs,'' Waugh said after the match.

``I think at 0-242 we were looking at 500 which would have been nice.

``We didn't bowl as well as we had the previous Test match. For a couple of hours there we lost control of the game.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

``The West Indies played well, they put themselves in a position where they could win the match and they continued that on the final day.''

That final day looked to have swung Australia's way when - in the third over of the morning with 46 still required - Chanderpaul was caught at the wicket and Banks (in his second Test) was joined by tailender Drakes (in his sixth) with only Dillon and Lawson to follow.

But with the large crowd cheering every defensive stroke and greeting each run with exuberant screams, the pair whittled away the remaining runs before Drakes created history in style with a crashing square cut to the point fence off MacGill.

Joyous celebrations followed as the entire West Indian team - - so much maligned across the Caribbean throughout the series - - embraced on the St John's pitch as the significance of their achievement sunk in.

STEVE WAUGH'S all-conquering Australian team went into the fourth and final Test of their Caribbean tour seeking a place in the history books.

Australia may have retained the Frank Worrell Trophy, produced the Man of the Series Ricky Ponting (523 runs at 130.75) and dominated all but the last five days, but the final stages of the fourth Test win which belonged to the West Indies were the tour's undoubted highlights.

That was confirmed by Lara who - - despite the personal milestones he's achieved in a remarkable if erratic career - - described the historic win as the undisputed highlight of his life in cricket.

``It's the greatest cricketing experience I've had,'' he said after the match. ``I've had quite a few, I've had 375 (the Test batting record), 501 (the first-class batting record) and the win in Barbados against Australia four years ago (in which he scored an unbeaten 153)."

"But today, with the team effort throughout this game, definitely I would say this is the greatest cricketing experience of my life so far.

``It was great cricket, and I'm proud of both teams. It was good for the crowd, good for West Indies cricket, and it was good for Asutralian cricket as well.

They've been on the top for the while, and this may bring an understanding that people are challenging for their position.''