Ramnaresh Sarwan reeled off a breath-taking, unbeaten 184 here Saturday to take the West Indies within a whisker of avoiding the follow-on and on a match-saving path after three days of an absorbing 4th Digicel Test against England at Kensington Oval.
The home team, replying to England’s imposing 600 for six declared, went to close on 398 for five, just three away from saving the follow on.
Sarwan played some sumptuous off-side strokes, with all 19 of his fours coming from cuts and drives in his favourite area. He also lashed an upper-cut six over third man off James Anderson and a lone leg side boundary, a swished six into the Hall and Griffith stand at midwicket off Graeme Swann’s off-spin.
The 28-year-old right-hander faced 280 balls and spent 468 minutes at the crease.
He received solid support from Shivnarine Chanderpaul (70), Devon Smith (55), Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin (25 not out).
Swann led the England line with three for 92 while Anderson claimed two for 79.
Sarwan will have to share the day’s spotlight with two controversial LBW decisions that went against the West Indies and shed the ICC’s TV referral trial system in a negative light.
Chanderpaul and Nash both perished in the final session despite plenty of TV evidence to suggest that, in both cases, the ball was clearly going over the top of the stumps.
TV umpire Daryl Harper of Australia was the man under pressure after he firstly helped Russell Tiffin uphold his original out decision against Chanderpaul and then wrongly gave Aleem Dar advice that led to him overturning his not out verdict against Nash.
Sarwan and Smith began the day positively as the West Indies resumed on 85 for one.
The pair stretched their overnight second wicket stand to 108 as both players brought up their half centuries.
Smith, whose fifty was his first in 24 Test innings, perished soon afterwards as he prodded forward to Swann and was given out leg before wicket. The Grenadian tried to gain a reprieve through the TV referral system but was rightly rejected. Smith hit eight fours off 113 balls.
Ryan Hinds compiled 15 before he followed in similar fashion as Swann’s two scalps sent the West Indies to lunch precariously positioned at 163 for three.
Sarwan and fellow Guyanese Chanderpaul, as they have done so often in the past two seasons, rebuilt a wobbling innings in a level-headed stand of 122 for the fourth wicket.
The pair guided the West Indies to tea on 265 for three and looked set to see off the second new ball after the break before the first controversial moment cut Chanderpaul short.
The 34-year-old padded up to Anderson and was given out by Tiffin, a decision that brought an immediate challenge from the veteran of 118 Tests. After Harper viewed many TV replays and Hawkeye evidence that seemed to clearly indicate the ball was clearing the stumps by a few inches, on-field umpire Tiffin surprisingly upheld his verdict.
Sarwan and Nash restored the West Indies fight in a stand of 53 for the fifth wicket before another TV referral took care of Nash.
The Aussie-born left-hander compiled 33 off 43 balls with a six and five fours before Swann had an LBW appeal rejected by Dar. England sought the TV referral and, again, Harper seemed to err with his advice as Dar overturned his not out decision.
Sarwan refused to let the doubtful departures of his partners affect his concentration and apart from a few shaky overs in the closing half hour, was untroubled and chanceless throughout the day.
The West Indies management of coach John Dyson and manager Omar Khan sought out the ICC Match Referee Alan Hurst during play but denied there was any protest.
“I had a chat with Alan Hurst. The system is an experimental system and we just wanted to clarify a couple of things,” Dyson said.
Hurst admitted that the system, first trialled last July in Sri Lanka, was under the microscope again: “It’s been a very difficult day for referrals, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve had a number and a number of them have been very close. There have been very difficult ones for the umpire.”