Sarwan sets it up

The 99-run win against Bangladesh was the West Indies' first Super Eight victory in a poor World Cup campaign that started in hope. S. Ram Mahesh reports.

The Super Eight match between the West Indies and England — inconsequential with regard to the World Cup — will forever be remembered as the day Brian Lara announced he would grace the game no more.

"If this is the last question," said Lara to a packed press conference in which he'd been asked repeatedly about his future, "I'd like to say that I'll be bidding goodbye to international cricket on Saturday. I've spoken to the board. Thank you all."

With that, Lara left the press conference as journalists went into shock. Lara had said that he would retire from one-day cricket after the World Cup, but had been non-committal about Test cricket. With a tour of England approaching, questions on whether he'd play the Tests and whether there would be separate captains for the two forms of the game were coming thick and fast.

Lara's leadership had increasingly come under criticism: the 99-run win against Bangladesh was the West Indies' first Super Eight victory in a poor World Cup campaign that started in hope.

The match had moments of magic — as do many that involve the West Indies, for even if there are none they will be imagined — but, it was too one-sided for the fan to be put through every emotion. The West Indies dismissed Bangladesh for 131 in 43.5 overs. Daren Powell took three wickets with rising deliveries at good pace; Corey Collymore, Dwayne Bravo, and Chris Gayle took two each.

Mushfiqur Rahim, a player of great promise, top-scored with 38. His partnership of 58 with Mashrafe Mortaza avoided the mortification of being dismissed below 100.

Ramnaresh Sarwan set the match up with the bat. His unbeaten 91 helped the West Indies recover from a comatose start — 47 for two in the 20th over — and post a total that would have tested most batting sides.

Sarwan's innings had periods when he worked the ball around masterfully and periods when he found the boundary with calculated risk. "I was injured running up to the World Cup," said Sarwan. "So, my preparations weren't as good as I'd have liked. But, I started to work the ball around better which is a big part of my game."

Sarwan produced two eminently watchable lofted drives over cover. With the first, off Rafique, Sarwan concentrated on getting the placement right. A quick two-step and the characteristic bat-swing — inside-out, slicing a touch — bisected sweeper-cover and long-off.

The second, off Saqibul, was to the shorter boundary and with the breeze. So, Sarwan chose less of a slice; placement wasn't as important as distance. The ball lodged itself in the first tier of the temporary stands.

"Sarwan's a very good batsman," said Brian Lara, "and he showed today that he could adapt to the number five positions. He is a very good finisher, and perhaps we erred in not trying it out earlier in the tournament."

Shivnarine Chanderpaul made a typically stubborn 50: the partnership he had with Marlon Samuels laid the base. Lara brought out a slashed six over point off Mashrafe Mortaza to highlight a good period in the slog overs.

"I think we bowled very well in the first 45 overs," said Bashar. "They came back in the last five overs."

The five overs Bashar alluded to brought 44, and featured Lara's six over point. "It was a bit of a slow start, but an emphatic win," said Lara. "Chanderpaul stuck it out well. But they had only two fast bowlers. If they had had three or maybe four, they would have had us in a lot of trouble."

But, the chase of 231 on a track of bounce overwhelmed Bangladesh's batsmen. Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Javed Omar, and Habibul Bashar were caught in the cordon behind. Mohammad Ashraful fell, again, on the pull. From 52 for six, there was no return.

"The basic plan was not to lose early wickets," said Bashar. "But, that never seems to happen. We needed to adapt to bounce, we aren't used to this. This is certainly the fastest wicket we have played on in the Caribbean. But, it eased up after 20 overs."

The defeat brought Bangladesh's World Cup campaign to an end. "We had some good days, and some ordinary days," said Bashar. "We under-performed in the Super Eight with just one win over South Africa. But, we qualified from a tough group. I think we'll get a lot more respect now. We proved to ourselves that we are capable of beating any team. Teams will respect us more than what they used to."

But, Lara's retirement dwarfed other matters. The West Indies will need to move on, and move on quick. One hopes Lara mends his bridges with the administration and can contribute to the future of the game in the Caribbean. His intelligence must not be lost. Lara said West Indies cricket had his "unconditional love" and he would like to be involved in some capacity.

"I'm someone who's played the game with a lot of the greats. I'm a student of the game in that I read about the game's history. The way Australia care about enhancing the understanding of their history — I'd like to (help with) what makes success come through."

The Scores

Super Eight: West Indies v Bangladesh. West Indies won by 99 runs.

West Indies: C. Gayle lbw b Rasel 1; D. S. Smith b Mortaza 5; S. Chanderpaul b Aftab 50; M. Samuels c Rahim b Hasan 31; R. Sarwan (not out) 91; B. Lara c Omar b Razzak 33; D. Bravo (not out) 9; Extras (lb-3, w-7) 10. Total (for five wkts., in 50 overs) 230.

Fall of wkts: 1-8, 2-8, 3-55, 4-136, 5-196.

Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 10-2-39-1; Rasel 10-2-48-1; Razzak 10-0-44-1; Rafique 10-0-46-0; Hasan 8-0-38-1; Aftab 2-0-12-1.

Bangladesh: J. Omar c Gayle b Powell 16; T. Iqbal (run out) 7; Aftab c Ramdin b Collymore 6; S. Hasan c Ramdin b Collymore 0; M. Ashraful c Samuels b Powell 2; H. Bashar c Bravo b Powell 12; M. Rahim (not out) 38; M. Mortaza b Bravo 37; M. Rafique lbw b Gayle 0; A. Razzak c Lara b Bravo 1; S. Rasel b Gayle 2; Extras (lb-1, w-7, nb-2) 10. Total (in 43.5 overs) 131.

Fall of wkts: 1-13, 2-21, 3-23, 4-34, 5-35, 6-52, 7-110, 8-111, 9-114.

West Indies bowling: Collymore 7-1-11-2; Powell 10-0-38-3; Taylor 8-0-25-0; Bravo 10-3-28-2; Gayle 8.5-0-28-2.