Shivnarine Chanderpaul's batting technique is the antithesis of elegance. Shuffling across the crease to turn the ball into the leg side, Chanderpaul's workmanlike style frustrates bowlers and spectators alike. Yet Test cricket will miss him when he is gone.
As the 37-year-old approaches the end of a prolific 18-year international career, it is relevant to ask: how many future batsmen will possess his characteristics? With the influence of Twenty20 increasing, how many players will be prepared to develop the determination, the patience and the levels of concentration that Chanderpaul has mastered?
Chanderpaul has his detractors. They say he struggles to change gear or that, instead of hogging the No 5 spot, he should move up a couple of places to give ballast to a fragile top order. While both judgements have merit, it seems churlish to draw too much attention to Chanderpaul's foibles.
In this match alone, he batted for 10 hours and 25 minutes and scored 178 runs before England dismissed him. He seemed certain to score a century yesterday but fell nine runs short, trapped leg-before by Graeme Swann with the first delivery of a new spell shortly before tea. But he and Marlon Samuels have given West Indies a chance, and with England 10 for 2 at the close and still needing 181 for victory, coach Ottis Gibson felt optimistic.
"It would be massive if we could win or get close," he said. "Maybe people didn't expect us to take it to a fifth day, but we will come here to fight. We have a chance for our bowling attack to test themselves against the England batting line-up, so we will fight hard and see how it goes."
Too often during his Test career, Chanderpaul has embarrassed careless team-mates with his remorseless attitude to batting, but happily for West Indies, this was not the case yesterday. Samuels and, to a lesser extent, Denesh Ramdin played maturely, proving that there is courage within this side.
Samuels' 86 was a pleasant surprise. Here is a player whose talent is beyond doubt but whose mental strength has been questioned. He has rarely been able to establish a regular spot in the team since making his Test debut in 2000, which is mystifying when you consider that he has scored centuries away from home against India and South Africa.
The Jamaican made 31 on Thursday but was out to a casual drive to cover, and when England went on the attack early yesterday, Samuels did not give the impression of a man who would hang around for long. He had reached 36 when he was struck by a rapid bouncer from Stuart Broad. England sensed a weakness, set the field accordingly and prepared to intimidate, but Samuels met their gaze.
Later in that over from Broad, he struck the England pace bowler for consecutive boundaries, one a ferocious pull in front of square that brought the initiative back in favour of the batsman. Thereafter, Samuels sought to follow the example of Chanderpaul and played within himself.
He reached his half-century with a smooth drive down the ground to an overpitched delivery from Jimmy Anderson and also combated Swann judiciously. Samuels must have glimpsed his third three-figure score in Tests but he was to be denied. A full delivery from Broad, a tentative drive, and an edge to second slip.
"We didn't expect that resistance from Samuels," admitted Swann. "He probably deserved a hundred and was unlucky that the second new ball came when he was in the eighties."
Maybe Chanderpaul and Samuels are batting too low in the order, but if their younger colleagues can copy them, the West Indies' prospects in this series, and the future, will start to look much brighter.
Timeline: How day four unfolded
11:55am Half-century - West Indies 152-4
Marlon Samuels beats Shivnarine Chanderpaul to 50, reaching the landmark with a glorious drive to the boundary off James Anderson. Windies trail by three runs.
2:10pm Wicket - West Indies 222-5
England make the breakthrough, Stuart Broad continuing his fine Test with his ninth wicket of the match. Graeme Swann takes the catch as Samuels is sent packing for 86.
3:38pm Wicket - West Indies 261-6
Chanderpaul again falls just short of his 26th Test century, the veteran nicking Swann just before tea with a delivery HawkEye adjudges would have hit leg-stump.
4:43pm Wicket - West Indies 307-7
Moments after the tourists rack up a 150 lead, Broad strikes again for his 10th wicket – his first in Test cricket. Darren Sammy is the man to fall, caught by Matt Prior for 37.
4:55pm Wicket - West Indies 313-8
Broad is on fire as he quickly strikes again, taking wicket 11. Kemar Roach is tempted and finds Ian Bell at point, who catches above his head. The tourists lead by 158.
5:58pm Wickets - West Indies 345 all out
After Denesh Ramdin goes for 43 the Windies stretch their lead to 190 before Swann bowls last-man Shannon Gabriel for 13. England have an achievable target.
6:34pm Wickets; Stumps - England 10-2
Chasing 191, England start terribly, Andrew Strauss (1) and James Anderson (6) falling to Roach before Jonathan Trott survives an appeal. Match in the balance.
James MarinerReuse content