Sarwan century bears hallmark of a leader

Ramnaresh Sarwan fashioned an innings here befitting a batsman in his 48th Test and carrying the responsibility of the vice-captaincy.

Yet the stylish Guyanese is less than two months into his 25th year with the best part of his career ahead of him. He already fills the pivotal No 3 position and, perhaps sooner rather than later, will find himself as leader of a team whose stocks now stand as low as at any time since the West Indies were first feeling their way in Test cricket in the Thirties.

These were circumstances to test his character. He was peculiarly off colour at Lord's. The touch he displayed during the one-day matches in the NatWest Series had deserted him.

He was twice lbw cheaply, jumping across his stumps, as he had been in the first two Tests against the same opponents in the Caribbean a few months earlier. He was leaden-footed in the outfield where he had once sparkled, his usually strong arm so weak he took to relaying throws from the deep underhand.

He spent the first day and a half here chasing leather in the field as England's batsmen once more exposed the frailties of the West Indies bowling and fielding. He sent down nine respectable overs of containing leg-spin from round the wicket but his role in the team is to make, not save, runs.

The situation could scarcely have been bleaker when he emerged from the pavilion 20 minutes before tea on the second afternoon, so surprised by the first-over dismissal of Devon Smith that he appeared while hastily adjusting his forearm guard.

Soon Chris Gayle was gone too and the board showed 12 for 2, replying to 566 for 9 declared. It was a situation to which he has had to become familiar in these times of struggle but his personal circumstances were not usual. A choice had to be made between reconstruction of the innings by the orthodox method of care and caution and personal revival by the attacking manner to which he is most accustomed and best suited.

It was not a straightforward decision by any means. He took the latter course. Depending on your point of view, it was either a bold or a foolhardy course. Whatever it was, it worked. It required luck and there were a couple of edged slashes. But the approach did get his feet moving in the right direction again, either right back or right forward. The bat also began to come down straight, rather than across the ball.

With Brian Lara in prime form at the opposite end, pride, so undermined yet again by the bowling and fielding, was restored in the best West Indian tradition of batsmanship. A packed Edgbaston had a second day it would never forget - and it was not simply because of Andy Flintoff's explosive hitting.

There was more high-quality play from Sarwan and Lara yesterday morning. Even after Lara allowed his concentration to be so upset by Flintoff's slower ball that he carelessly sliced the next delivery high to gully, Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul carried the fight into the afternoon.

The problem is that this West Indies team remain shrouded in the self-doubt and defeatism created by 29 losses in 39 overseas Tests since 1997. England and Australia went through the same disability during the Eighties.

No matter how high the balloon soars, it only requires a pin-prick to burst it. It was punctured as soon as Sarwan chopped Flintoff (who else?) back into his stumps and came rapidly down to earth.

A team playing with as much confidence and efficiency as England are at present would not let such a chance pass them by. The last seven wickets tumbled for 39 from 20.5 overs and, as they were at Lord's, the West Indies were left with two and a half days to try to save the Test.

Back to his best, Sarwan will carry much of the side's responsibility in the salvage operation. In the longer term, his proven qualities of leadership are what the West Indies will require most.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London