Ramnaresh Sarwan stretched his 14th Test century into a memorable, career-best 291 and Denesh Ramdin finally registered his maiden hundred as the West Indies amassed 749-9 declared to claim a first innings lead of 149 and leave them with a outside chance of forcing victory on Monday’s last day of the 4th Digicel Test at Kensington Oval.
England, after confidently declaring their first innings on 600-6, were six without loss in their second innings at the close on day four and facing a nervous fifth day.
The day belonged to Sarwan, who resumed on 184, and Ramdin, overnight 25, as they carried their sixth wicket partnership to 261 and the home team within sight of England’s formidable total before being separated.
The 28-year-old Sarwan was as fluent as he was on Saturday, racking up 30 fours and two sixes before he fell tantalizingly short of joining Brian Lara (twice), Sir Garry Sobers, Chris Gayle and Lawrence Rowe as West Indian triple centurions. The Guyanese right-hander’s innings spanned 452 deliveries and 699 minutes.
Ramdin, who has played 33 Tests consecutively since his debut in July 2005, produced a magnificent 166, the second highest score by a West Indian wicket-keeper (behind Sir Clyde Walcott 168 not out against England at Lord’s in 1950).
He was watched in the stands by his father Diaram and produced a unique celebration on passing three figures, going into his pocket to reveal a note that thanked his countrymen Ian Bishop and David Williams, both former Test players, and batting partner Sarwan.
Former fast bowler Bishop, now in the commentary box, had sought out Ramdin before the match to remind him of his immense ability while Williams, now assistant coach, has worked tirelessly with the 23-year-old in the past several years.
After resuming on 398 for five, Sarwan and Ramdin batted throughout the morning session to dull any England thoughts of pushing for victory.
There was one early alarm from a run out chance before Sarwan brought up his second test double hundred with a flailing cut over the slips for his 21st four.
Soon afterwards, England used up their final TV referral for an optimistic leg before appeal against Sarwan from Ryan Sidebottom but the pair rarely played a false shot after that.
They almost saw their side to tea, and past England’s score, but Sarwan fell to the third new ball as Sidebottom produced an in-swinger that snuck through to cannon into the stumps off the inside edge at 595 for six.
Ramdin and Jerome Taylor further flayed the visitors in a sixth wicket stand of 77 off 92 balls.
Taylor was as assured as Ramdin, blasting three sixes, two of them hooked into the Greenidge and Haynes Stand at square leg, and six fours in 53 off 62 balls.
Taylor eventually fell to the persevering Swann, who wrapped up his second five-wicket haul of the series when Ramdin was bowled driving to spark a late declaration by Chris Gayle.
In between, James Anderson claimed Sulieman Benn for 14 to a top-edged pull.
Swann took five for 165 from 50.2 overs while Anderson, who ran in with purpose throughout the innings, was rewarded with three for 125.
England’s openers, captain Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, safely negotiated two overs before stumps.