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Windies pass the Test

THOSE calypso drums must have been beating late into the night all over the Caribbean on Tuesday. The rockers and rollers would have been out in numbers. And in the centre of it all in Barbados would have been the West Indies team, deliriously happy after having pulled off one of the most amazing victories in recent Test history, a triumph fashioned to a large extent by the man they call the prince of Trinidad.

Clive Lloyd's face was a study in pure joy as he rose to his feet when Lara smashed the battling Gillespie to the fence to take the score to 311 and a phoenix-like victory. Adams and the others lifted the little man up and carried him in on a sea of hands. And it is indicative of the new spirit in the team that Lara gave his team credit for what they had done. Credit to Campbell, Jacobs and the tail for the marvellous pullback job after the team was staring down the abyss at 98 for six with 490 looming ahead. Credit to the lion-hearted Walsh for the magnificent spell which brought him yet another five-wicket haul and credit to the patient Adams who stuck with him, playing the role of partner, pacifier, motivator and sometime aggressor to perfection.

There is one thing about this team all of a sudden -- they seem to be hungry for victory. They seem to be covering for each other here and there. But at times, only the magic of a genius will suffice. It is noticeable that there is spirit in the team again. The players seem to be proud to be wearing the maroon cap, a point touched on by Viv Richards on the second day of the match. And the islands are reaping the harvest, two incredible victories, displays of supreme artistry for the peoples of Jamaica and Barbados.

At this moment of ecstacy, while it must be extremely satisfying to Brian Lara that he has come good with two epic innings, he must also be happy that this time he was not the lone man to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. If Sherwin Campbell and Ridley Jacobs and then the threesome of Perry, Ambrose and Walsh had not fired in the first innings, there may have well been an entirely different script in the second innings. And Lara must also be conscious that this victory came without the reliable Chanderpaul in the team, it came without Hooper doing anything. There are many reasons to feel satisfied.

There was one sour note in a marvellous day's play: McGrath's antics. On many an occasion, he made it a point not to move aside from the pitch when he had completed his action. He just stood there arms akimbo, often blocking the batsman who had to run around him. Had Richards been in the team, it is very likely that he would have just knocked the fast bowler down and trod on him as well. McGrath's habit of treading on the wicket to create rough areas for the spinners to exploit was another unnecessary aspect of the day's play. Way back in the 1980s, Craig McDermott had to change his action due to this, so tough were the umpires on him. McGrath got away because the umpires Nicholls and Orchard were lenient. Had it been Bucknor or Venkat, he may well have earned a reprimand. Or more. He would do well to bear in mind that he is on a suspended sentence at the moment after being fined for shooting his mouth off at Mullally in Australia.

Australia are now the ones with their backs to the wall; they have to win in Antigua or else their luggage will be lighter when they fly on to England for the World Cup. A very precious piece of silverware would have been left behind. There may be major surgery as the team struggles to recoup and come back; Warne (or Macgill) and Healy may be dropped and Elliott is likely to join them. Blewett may be the new opener. Dale will come in, for sure. The lack of wisdom in playing two leggies was never more apparent than in McGrath's last over when fatigue so overcame the tall New South Welshman that he bowled a wide while trying to prevent Lara from scoring. That took the score to 306 and Lara levelled the scores off the very next ball, leaving Walsh to face one. He could afford to do it for the West Indies had ensured they would not lose. To expect a fast bowler to bowl over 40 overs in that heat is cruel.

As if all the problems they already have are not enough, there is one more thing which may haunt the Aussies as they prepare for the final Test. Ambrose, their nemesis on many an occasion, has still not got a decent bag of wickets despite his providing excellent support to Walsh. And Antigua is the lanky paceman's own backyard. At his age, one never knows when one's last home Test is, and this may well be it. Curtley would like to end a remarkable career on a memorable note, of that have no doubt. A moody character, he can be lethal when he rouses himself as he did in Melbourne in 1996. The result was nine wickets in the match and a West Indian victory, an easy one. Steve Waugh and his boys will not sleep easy at night with that on their minds.