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Thriller at Arnos Vale!

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The West Indies win over Australia in the second ODI match at the Arnos Vale Playing Field on Sunday and the Government’s decision to declare Tuesday, the day of the Third ODI, as a public holiday, set the stage for the electrifying atmosphere that prevailed on Tuesday.{{more}} The West Indies win on Sunday, their first over Australia since 2006, gave some heart to fans who had become very disillusioned with West Indies cricket. The day following the announcement about the Public Holiday saw hundreds of people storming the offices of the Cricket Board seeking tickets. It was not long after that the announcement was made that tickets were sold out. Tuesday was a day that many cricket fans would not forget. Some took the wise decision to get to the Playing Field early that morning, some had gotten there as early as seven o’clock. Others, including me, faced a situation where it took over two hours to get from Sion Hill to the Arnos Vale Playing Field. There was frustration not only from the long wait but as in my case, having my car hit by someone who was trying to manoeuvre himself out of the flow of traffic.

It was a test of nerves as many drivers tried to beat the flow of traffic and to get a move on others.

We have not had an International ODI since the disaster of the Warm Up games for the World Cup, so Cricketing fans were enthusiastic, especially with West Indies having won the Second ODI. The atmosphere at the Playing Field was like one had not seen before, with great expectations even from those fans who have given up on the West Indies team following their string of defeats. There was something in the air that seemed to be foretelling the thriller that was to take place as the capacity crowd awaited the start of the game.

Australia won the toss and decided to bat, with Warner and Watson trying to step up the pace and put early pressure on the West Indies. With Watson run out at 10 and Warner’s adventurous and at times charmed life ending when he was on 37 the Australians found themselves at 3 for 58 before a fourth wicket partnership of 112 between Mike Hussey and George Bailey took them to 170 for 4. They then slumped to 220 with their last 6 wickets falling for 18 runs. Having to chase that target at a little over four runs an over, this was very doable, but with some injudicious batting and failure again by their top order batsmen the West Indies slumped to 78 for 5 and then 190 for 8. Following knocks by Charles and Pollard, and a partnership by Russell and Baugh the dimmed spirits of the largely Vincentian crowd, but with pockets of Trinidadians, Bajans and Guyanese, many of whom had come from North America, were lifted. With the lower order buckling down and trying to do what the top order failed to do, the crowd shouted from the stands “We Can Do It”. Having reached 190 for 8, knocks by Narine, Roache and Sammy showed what was possible. With Sammy and Roache at the crease and one run to get in three balls, the crowd was on its feet awaiting a sure victory. Then it happened! a foolish, unbelievable run out. Sammy explained what had happened in a post match interview. The strategy he discussed with Roache was to run and so Roache scampered down the wicket. It takes the West Indies to snatch defeat from the hands of victory (even though, technically it was a tie). What foolishness to talk about running when you still had two balls to go! Can you believe this? Can you imagine what it would have meant to spectators and players alike, going to St.Lucia, two up in the series! But then we are dealing with West Indian Cricket.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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