Cricket: Pressures building on Lara

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The Independent Online
ALREADY virtually down and out in the series, West Indies adopted desperate measures for a desperate situation in the Third Test here. It all made little difference to their troubles.

They made five changes to the XI whose humbling in the Second Test had left them 2-0 behind with three to play, bringing in Darren Ganga, an untried 19-year-old with fewer than a dozen first-class matches to his name. They also tried their ninth different opening pair in the last 23 Tests and, as he said he would, their struggling captain, Brian Lara, demoted himself one place from his usual No 3. They also abandoned their traditional quartet of fast bowlers to include the leg-spinner, Rawl Lewis.

It all smacked of panic measures, and the only wonder was that manager Clive Lloyd and coach Malcolm Marshall weren't coaxed into comebacks.

The upshot of all the upheaval was 198 all out, a marginal improvement on the paltry totals of 121 and 141 in Port Elizabeth but, even though they were sent in, another poor return on a good batting pitch. The use of the floodlights, switched on 20 minutes after tea to allow play to continue on a dank, overcast day, was of no help, for by then five wickets were already down for 165 and, as usual, the last five fell in a heap for just 20.

The woes were compounded as Gary Kirsten benefited from the first catch the West Indies have dropped all series, put down in the gully off Courtney Walsh at four. He and Herschelle Gibbs used the last 16 overs to build a stand of 46.

In contrast to the West Indies, the South Africans retained their winning XI and revealed the depth of their resources through the spread of their wicket-takers. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock, who shared 27 of the 40 wickets in the first two Tests, managed only one between them, leaving the supporting cast, Jacques Kallis and Hansie Cronje, with three each, and David Terbrugge, with two, to embarrass their opponents this time.

Ironically, some of the West Indian changes actually paid minor dividends. Philo Wallace, recovered from glandular fever, and Junior Murray, the reserve wicketkeeper pressed into service as his partner, batted the first hour and 20 minutes in adding 50, the best opening partnership of the series.

When Kallis and Terbrugge combined to remove them and the left-handed Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the promoted No 3, in the space of seven runs, Lara was recognisable as Lara for the first time in the series in a fluent 51, with a six and eight fours. When he was out, the right-handed Ganga played with more aplomb than anyone for 28 spread over two hours, adding 45 with the left-handed wicketkeeper, Ridley Jacobs.

Inevitably, there were several of the reckless dismissals which have marked the tour. No one was more culpable than Carl Hooper, in his 11th year the second longest-serving Test player on the field. After he and Lara doggedly put together 48, he went after a Kallis delivery which was so wide it was barely within Durban's city limits. He just managed to get his bat on it to be taken at first slip.

Wallace and Chanderpaul were Kallis' other victims, also to careless drives, while Lara fell to a stroke that had cleared the boundary once but always threatened to bring his downfall, a pull off Terbrugge that spooned limply to mid-on.