When West Indies staged a coup

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13 May 2020 | 03:31 AM
authorAshish Pant

When West Indies staged a coup

On this day, in 2003, West Indies successfully chased down the highest-ever fourth-innings total in Test cricket against the mighty Australians



There is a reason why it is said that chasing any target in the fourth innings of a Test match can be tricky. A total of 2387 Test matches have been played since 1877 and in 143 years of Test cricket, only four times has a fourth-innings target in excess of 400 ever been successfully over-hauled.

Out of those, the highest ever target - 418/7 - was chased down by the West Indies, on this day, back in 2003 at the Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua against Australia.


Australia were leading the four-match Test series against the West Indies by a 3-0 margin and headed to the fourth match primed to inflict a clean sweep. Fast bowler Jermaine Lawson fresh from a hat-trick in the third Test though had other ideas. He demolished the all-conquering Australian lineup with a devastating spell of 7/78 as the visitors were bundled out for 240. 

However, the West Indies could not take much of an advantage getting bowled out for 240 themselves with Andy Bichel and Brett Lee being the destroyers-in-chief for Australia.

The visitors then made sure they did not repeat their first innings mistakes. Justin Langer (111) and Matthew Hayden (177) stitched a 242-run stand for the opening wicket as Australia amassed 417 in 104 overs to set West Indies an improbable target to chase down in the fourth innings. 


The target that huge had never been successfully overhauled in the fourth innings of a Test and with the hosts already trailing 3-0 in the series, few would have given them a chance. Things became tougher when Lee, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath struck once each to get rid of the top three West Indies batsmen with the score on 74. 

Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan then held the innings together with a useful 91-run stand but once the former was dismissed for 60 by Stuart MacGill, the end seemed inevitable. However, Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul refused to give up. The surface was still playing well and with time not much of a concern, the duo dug in. 

They were intelligent in their game plan as they carefully mixed attacking strokeplay with careful defence. The sparse crowd that had gathered in Antigua egged on the duo.

Sarwan, the aggressor of the two was the first one to bring up his century and just when it seemed the pair would see the rest of day 4 out, Lee struck twice in two balls. He ended the 123-run stand for the fifth wicket getting rid of Sarwan caught and bowled for 105 before sending wicketkeeper-batsman Ridley Jacobs back the very next ball for a duck. 

Chanderpaul though remained unmoved. His languid strokeplay on show, the southpaw found an able partner in allrounder Omari Banks. Chanderpaul soon brought up his century as West Indies ended the penultimate day of the Test on 371/6, just 47 runs adrift of an unprecedented win.

All of the Caribbean feared the worst when Chanderpaul lasted just one more delivery on the final day. The left-hander edged Lee to 'keeper Adam Gilchrist for 105 as Australia found a fresh lease of hope. 

However, the calm Banks and Vasbert Drakes ensured there were no more hiccups. There were a few nervy moments but the duo held their composure. It was Drakes who sealed the game for the hosts courtesy a spanking cut through point to spark jubilant scenes in the dressing room.

West Indies had broken a 27-year-old record held by India of completing the highest-ever fourth-innings chase. While they lost the series 3-1, their grit and tenacity in the final outing against an almost invincible Australian unit was something to behold. 


West Indies broke the record held by India when centuries from Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath helped the Indians chase down a 403-run target in Port of Spain back in 1976. West Indies' 418/7 still remains the highest-ever successful run-chase in Test cricket, followed by South Africa's 414/4 against Australia in Perth. India's 406/4 in POS comes third on the list followed by Australia successfully chasing down a 404-run target set by England in Leeds back in 1948.

Sri Lanka's 391-run chase against Zimbabwe in Colombo in 2006 completes the top five of this list. 

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Ramnaresh Ronnie SarwanShivnarine ChanderpaulBrett LeeAustraliaWest Indies

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