Just when even their passionate public had become so disenchanted with their continuing failures they could no longer bring themselves to watch, the West Indies were on course for a crushing victory over Pakistan after three days of the First Test here.
Their domination at the end of a dismal season, in which they were beaten 2-0 by South Africa and lost all eight one-day internationals against South Africa and Pakistan, has been carried out with the ruthlessness that was once the hallmark of the formidable teams of a previous generation under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
Another dazzling hundred by Brian Lara, his third in four Tests, set up a first innings total of 347 on the first day and their fast bowlers followed by routing their depleted opponents for 144.
With captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul directing operations from the middle with a marathon unbeaten 153 to follow his first innings 92, they stretched their second innings to 371 when they were all out at tea. It gave them an overall lead of 572 and left Pakistan the 213 overs remaining in the match to avoid defeat. It was a daunting prospect without their two main batsmen with 165 Tests between them, captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who is serving a one-match suspension, and Yousuf Youhanna, who has returned to Lahore to be with his ill father. And it became even more serious as they stumbled to 113 for 4 by close.
That represented a recovery from a disastrous start to their second innings. The Left-handed opener Salman Butt edged the third ball from Fidel Edwards, the wrecker of their first innings, to Chris Gayle at second slip, stand-in captain Younis Khan was run out by Chanderpaul's direct hit and Yasir Hameed caught at the wicket off Daren Powell's perfectly pitched outswinger. After a break of nearly an hour for rain, Bazed Khan was lbw to Corey Collymore before Asim Kamal and Shahid Afridi staged a fight-back.
There was a time when Barbadians would pack Kensington Oval wondering not so much whether the West Indies would win as when, but their fortunes have changed so dramatically that they have won only two Tests here in the past 11 years, losing the last four in succession to New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa.
Following the miserable lead up to this Test, no more than 2,000 were sprinkled around the stands over the first two days, a few more yesterday, in spite of drastically slashed admission prices.
Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds resumed at 168 for 4, already 369 to the good but, with an even longer tail than usual, still with work to do to put the match entirely out of Pakistan's reach.
Chanderpaul, whose bizarre front-on stance has become more and more exaggerated, remains the epitome of reliability. He fell eight short of three figures in the first innings and was intent on not wasting another opportunity for his 14th Test hundred.
He was 37 at the start and continued to gather his runs with no bother on a true pitch in hot, humid weather. By the time he ran out of partners, he had been going for four and a quarter hours. He seemed capable of going for many more.Reuse content